Meeting a British business partner

121 posts in this topic

Posted

Hello,

I am new to this forum and I hope I am not totally wrong due to the fact that I am a native German and not from a native english speaking country.

Anyway I might help foreigners and give some helpful hints on some issues.

Anyway I do have a question for my own and I hope it is not violation of the forum.

I found this forum while searching for differences between british and german business partners.

I already knew that there is a difference between the direct german way and the more polite indirect british way of talking to each other.

Recently I got a new business contact from England to whom I already bought articles and who bought from me although we just know each other from writing by E-Mail and talking on the phone.

But I prefer to meet business partners directly because this might give a business relationship a boost as well.

Now I have the possibility to meet an old schoolmate who's living in England and meet that britih partner.

Unfortunately I think I was a bit too direct because I told him that I prefer direct meetings with my business partner and of course he told me I am invited and told him about the day I will arrive and asked him whether he has time and is available that day.

He covered that he is available and I am welcome. Anyway I know think that it might be that I am wrong and it was just the polite british response a german like me might not recognize!

Can anyone tell me how do I find out whether I was too direct and can find out whether it is really ok that I meet him in his office or not?

And for the case it is common to bring a business partner a gift for the first meeting?

I thought about East Frisian tea.

Thanks a lot

Andree

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Posted

Only your Buisness partner will know if you were too direct!

Dont take a gift... When you get there, suggest a Pub lunch and insist that you pay the bill!

Simplz

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Posted

Hello,

thank you for this fast reply.

I will ask him tomorrow whether it is really ok or not.

Pub lunch is better then a gift?

Interesting but thank you for the hint!!!

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Posted

Thank you for that.

I think this will help.

I see a gift would maybe strange and an invitation to a lunch would be better?

Interesting... thank you

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Posted

Well, sometimes a gift would be hard to accept. I used to work for a pharmaceutical company in London. There are strict rules as to the value of the gift a sales representative could give a doctor, for example. And anyway, you don't know the person. You don't know whether they are a teetotaller (Antialkoholiker) or a recovering alcoholic. You can't take knives from Solingen as that is seen as 'cutting the relationship'. The other person would then have to give you money in exchange (even if it's just 5p). Chocolates? They may be on a diet or diabetic.

Best to meet them first and then, if you want to buy them something, you might know what they would appreciate.

But what I would do is to send them an e-mail after you get back to Germany saying "Thanks for meeting me and it was good to get to know you. The pub lunch was great. If you are ever in my region in Germany, please get in touch." Or words like that.

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Posted

Andie,

You're right that we Brits can be indirect and over polite, but don't worry - it's rare to go to the extreme of saying the Total Opposite of what we mean. If he meant no, he wouldn't have said yes, you're welcome - although he might have said no but dissimilated with some excuses and explanations as to why not; "maybe another time" might really mean "no, I'm not interested" but "yes" never means "no"!

By the way, as a Brit living in Germany, I'd not recommend taking tea as a gift to a Brit in Britain ;). He Might have an interest in teas of the world, but generally speaking, we do believe we already have the Best tea in the world, you see. My husband and I import so much British tea to Germany that I sometimes wonder if it's legal ;)

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Posted

Hello chaos_amoeba,

thank you for that I understand what you mean.

Well of course nobody does drink more tea then the brits except the East Frisians (and that's where I am from :D ).

I thought a gift would be a good idea and so I thought about two opportunities:

-German beer

-Tea

I know the british like beer but then I thought I do not know, maybe he might be not allowed to drink alcohol and it is not possible to get fluids into the plane.

So tea I thought would be a better idea.

Well then I will try to invite him to a lunch or coffee!!!

;)

Thank you

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Posted

For an acquaintance who might become a friend, a gift is a thoughtful (and IMO essential) idea - for a business partner, bringing a gift is a bit strange. The idea given of treating your business partner to a lunch is a good one, and who knows, you might become friendly to the point where - at some point in the future - friesian tea might be a good idea for a gift. :)

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Posted

Really it is strange?

Well when a partner from Taiwan visited me he gave me a gift as well and I liked that.

Also other sales representatives often have some small gifts!

I thought that would be a normal business procedure, maybe not in GB so it is good that I asked.

But I also read that in England acquaintances from the same company often get into a pub together after work this is something I haven't seen in Germany yet.

We are going in a pub with friends...

Very funny although Brits and Germans might call each other "cousins" there are differences! :D

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Posted

Don't worry about the meeting. If your business partner has said yes, then he means yes. He probably welcomes the opportunity to see you face to face, it's always good to be able to a face to a name.

I agree that it's probably better not to take a present to the first meeting. You don't say whether your partner works for himself or for a company, but many large companies in the UK have policies that don't allow their staff to accept gifts. It's so they can't be accusing of showing favouritism based on how good the gifts are. Also as, other have said, I really wouldn't ever give tea to a Brit. No matter how good the tea is, we will never accept that it could be anywhere near as good as British tea! Think of Bavarians and beer. I've never met a Bavarian who would concede that beer from anywhere else was worth drinking. ;) Well, that's how the British are with tea.

Suggest lunch and offer to pay. He may not accept your offer to pay, but he'll think it is a nice gesture.

Hmmmm...East Frisians drink a lot of tea? I didn't know that. I may have to look at moving to East Frisia. :D

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Posted

Hello,

well he is the owner of the company

Anyway I think I better invite him and he has sense of humor like brits used to have.

When I was talking on phone I was kidding that they are driving on the wrong site but he mentioned:

"No it's you driving on the wrong site but you are making better cars"!!! :D

Bavarian beer is nothing compared to real german pils from the north :D

Yes the east frisians are drinking more tea per head in a year then the brits do

Anyway I will probably get some tea over there and get it back home ;)

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Posted

I think you have your answer already, but just wanted to say: for Americans it would also be somewhat strange to receive a gift from a business associate. At holiday time it is fairly normal to get cards or gift baskets from very close associates/business partners but that's it.

Note that if we do receive gifts, even if we find it a little "strange", it does not usually make us think badly of the giver. We just don't get it :)

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Posted

Hello,

thanks as well.

I see I just do not need a business etiquette for China I also need one for GB and the USA!!! :D

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Posted

Oh, definitely. There are business guides for every country. I have a few books from the Culture Shock series, including Culture Shock: Succeed in Business: Germany. THere must be one for the UK, too.

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Posted

You must bow and call him "your excellency."

He will piss himself laughing.

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Posted

This is from a website I sometimes use when dealing with cultural differences in my business English lessons.

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/uk.html

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Posted

Well I am being curious, it is my first trip to GB. Had been several times in the USA but never in GB.

But I think it will be a great experience and I must see a real british pub!!! :)

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Posted

andie30: make sure you try a good curry! Don´t ask for " :D Paprika " in it, ok?

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Posted

andie30: make sure you try a good curry! Don´t ask for " Paprika " in it, ok?

Oh I like hot meals! :)

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Posted

While it is common in Oriental countries to bring gifts on a first meeting, unless you've joked about great German beer (for example) then I'd avoid getting him anything as you really don't know his taste or predilections. You can certainly offer to take him to lunch/dinner, but suggest in advance he chooses the location. A "pub lunch" does not always go down well, but if he suggests it then you are safe. Be careful, however, that he might end up suggesting somewhere expensive!

Be aware that unlike in Germany he will probably quickly want to use first names, so be prepared for that. This means, of course you will quickly have to learn to call him "you" instead of "you" when addressing him in the second person.

Oh what do you mean?

He is calling me by my first name since we started the mail and phone conversation but I always called and still do call him: Mr. ....

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Posted

Oh I like hot meals!

Don't ever tell them that in any curry restaurant. It'll be seen as a challenge.

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