Doing business in the UK is often a good endeavor. Not only is it one of the richest countries in the world, it's also a central business hub. Companies, organizations and the like would do well to consider working and partnering up with businesses here if they want to succeed. But first things first, you need to know about the basics of British business etiquette. These include dressing appropriately for meetings, never arriving late to anything work-related, getting used to British humor, and more. The British are quite particular about how they go about their business and they expect everyone else to do the same.
Use Formal Greetings
First things first, remember to always use formal greetings. Whether you're meeting someone in person or you're writing them an email, you don't just start with a simple “Hey!” or “Hi!” It's better to always greet with “Good Morning” or 'Good Afternoon,' depending on the time of day. And when you address others, don't just use their name. Always attach a ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ before their name. Even when the recipient themselves feel it's too formal, you have to wait until they give you permission to be more casual with them (at the proper time and place, of course!).
Follow The Business Hierarchy
Just like with British social customs, UK business settings follow a rigid hierarchy. Ones in higher positions and more seniority are given the utmost respect. In business meetings, they're the first to be greeted by the speaker. When going out for a business lunch in London
, for example, they're the first to be seated. And it's clear to see that they're the ones who get the final say when it comes to making big decisions. You'd do well to remember when you do business in the UK. They expect you to fall in line, whether you're a client or a colleague.
Practice Proper Punctuality
If you ever get to work in the UK
, you'll know that punctuality is an absolute must. It's no secret that the British are pretty rigid when it comes to proper manners. And they're just as strict (or even stricter) in business settings as they are in social gatherings. For them, arriving late is bad manners. They expect you to always be on time, perhaps even early if possible. And if you can't help but be late, you'd do well to inform others beforehand. That's no guarantee they won't feel annoyed by your tardiness, but it'd still help!
Wear Traditional Business Attire
Now, for your attire, traditional is the way to go! For men, this always means a tailored suit, even a three-piece ensemble if you can afford it. Think the London tailors
and the kind of suits they make. These are what British businessmen dress in or aspire to have in their work wardrobes. Paired with shined leather shoes, you'll be dressed for success! Meanwhile, women have the choice between a tailored suit (or pantsuit) or a conservative dress. It's safe if your hem doesn't go above the knee, but if it does, it shouldn't reach your thigh.
Respect Personal Space
What separates the British from the other Europeans is their need for personal space. While the French and Italians are notorious for getting too close for comfort (not always though!), the British are a different story. They'd prefer that you maintain a certain distance, both when you're working together and when you're hanging out socially. It's even doubly important for the former. The British get stressed when people invade their personal space when they're working. They find it hard to continue with their tasks and would even go so far as confront the other person when they get too close. It's best to avoid such situations.
Set Meetings in Advance
While businessmen from other countries are used to (or can adapt to) spontaneous business meetings, the British certainly are not! They prefer (some downright require) that you set up the meeting in advance. And not just a few hours or a day in advance. As much as possible, they prefer that you set the meeting week or more prior. This allows time to prepare on their end, such as what they would present, the issues that need to be addressed, and so on. At the same time, they expect you to arrive at the meeting just as, if not even more prepared!
Be Specific with Your Emails
In terms of sending an email, British business etiquette dictates that you should be as specific as can be. Don't just address your email to the company. Address it to a specific person in mind. At the same time, don't just address them casually too. The British consider it rude
when you start the email with a simple “Hi!” Go with a 'Dear...' instead. It may seem too personal at first, but rest assured that this is the common way to start a business email in the UK.
Keep Up with British Humor
Finally, try to keep up with British humor! While the British are known for their “stiff upper lip” sensibility, they're not averse to having a bit of fun even when they're at work. But the main thing here is that the British are known for their dry and deadpan humor. They might say something outrageous with a straight face and you'd think they were being serious when in fact, they're actually joking. You need to catch that joke as fast as you can, because if not, it can lead to very awkward situations.
If you ever want to do business in the UK, you need to learn about the basics of British business etiquette first. This will help you deal with British businessmen and how to work well with them to seal the deal!