If your goal is to maximize your global business presence, good to know the customs of different regions. Here’s a quick rundown of the corporate etiquette for North American countries.

 

The United States

 

Business Etiquette North America

 

Generally, the United States and its business practices are fairly informal. Historically, the U.S. has been a melting pot for many different cultures, and the semi-casual nature of greetings is intended to demonstrate equality among everyone.

 

U.S. Meet and Greet

 

In the U.S., handshakes are usually the go-to greeting. However, it isn’t a requirement. If you do shake hands with someone, make sure your grip is firm and that you make eye contact while doing so. A limp handshake is perceived as a sign of weakness and untrustworthiness.

 

When a colleague says, “Hi, how are you?” the most acceptable response is, “Fine, thanks. How are you?” By asking about your current state of well being, your business associate is merely being courteous. If you’re not having a good day, it’s best to keep that information to yourself. (This actually applies to all North American countries. Keep things positive.)

 

When speaking to a business partner, be sure to keep some space between you and the other person. In Europe and other parts of the world, people stand much closer together. However, in the U.S. workers prefer lots of “personal space.” Don’t be surprised if an American business person treats you like an old friend, cracks jokes, and divulges personal information. People in the U.S. tend to be open and friendly. Americans smile a lot, and like to make you smile, too. A nice smile from you ensures your associate that you’re comfortable and having a good time.

 

Most Americans prefer direct but non-threatening communication, often have boisterous personalities, and highly value individualism. And if you’re ever in doubt about a particular custom, just ask! Americans love to give advice and love to play the “expert” on most subjects!

 

Mexico

 

Business Etiquette North America

Family First

 

You may not know this, but in Mexico, business is often a family affair. In order to connect with an individual, you must first know them personally. And to make their acquaintance, you must connect with them via their family. Therefore, in important business meetings, a liaison is often employed to make a positive introduction on your behalf.

 

Generosity, Savoring the Important Things

 

Mexican people value tradition, family, warm dispositions, and savoring life’s fundamental pleasures. Mexican people are hard workers, but like some European countries, see work as a means to an end. Be open and gracious, slow down (watch the pace of your speech) and invest your time. It will be very beneficial to your business dealings. Also, remember that gender roles are more traditional in Mexico. So if you are a man, it’s important to be commanding. If you’re a woman, place utmost emphasis on politeness.

 

Canada

 

Business Etiquette North America

 

Most Canadians are either English speaking, French speaking, or both, and the country prides itself on its social tolerance, individualism, and strong European ancestry. Most Canadians differentiate themselves from their American neighbors by being more polite, reserved, and easy going.

 

The handshake and “body distance” etiquette is generally the same in Canada and the U.S. (firm, eye contact, lots of personal space.) However, the courtesy is only intensified. Some Canadians insist on using first and last names, as well as titles. If you’re unsure about how you should address a colleague, air on the side of caution and address them formally until you’re invited to be more familiar. If you’re speaking French, be sure to always use the “vous” form.

 

Different regions have different customs. Research the culture of the province before your trip! This will help you get a better idea of the area’s cultural demographics, traditions, and idiosyncrasies. If you’re nervous about how to act, just be as polite, kind, and professional as possible.

 

Good luck!

Feel free to share your North American business anecdotes in the comments.