Conducting business outside of your own country for the first time can be tricky as it is easy to fall foul of things you take for granted at home – such as local business practices, culture and legal requirements.
Despite the world apparently shrinking and the ever voracious global demand for US movies, TV and products, countries still hold on to their differences. Europe is a relatively small land mass with massive cultural differences across countries which can be confusing to other Europeans so they can be baffling to those outside of Europe.
Here are 10 Tips to consider when wanting to do business in Europe
1) Europe and the European Union are not the same. Not all countries are members of the EU but many of these want to be.
2) Not all EU countries use the Euro – the UK and countries in Scandinavia are obvious examples.
3) Although there is a common approach to taxation, tax rates in each country do vary.
4) Not everyone speaks English! While English is widely spoken and understood in many countries you must not assume that everyone you deal with either understands English or will appreciate you speaking it to sell them something. The acceptance of English varies by country, industry (technology professionals use English widely) and type of customer – B2B customers and younger (under 30) consumers are more likely to understand English than older consumers – BUT DO NOT ASSUME ENGLISH IS OK
5) Translation is important. Automated translation is not acceptable and will be treated as a joke. Some countries have regional differences so be very careful that you are using translation that is appropriate to the area you are targeting – this can be a real issue in Germany with more formal German being used in the key business areas. To be successful you must invest in professional translation.
6) Public holidays are very important in Europe and do vary by country. Many people take off extra time around them so make sure you know your contact’s plans.
7) Christmas and summer are very important. Very little business is done in Europe from Mid-End December and into early January. Summer also varies based on school holidays. France famously shuts down in August (although that is changing slightly). Some countries may have their summer holidays earlier June/July and others, such as the UK, seem to favor August. The summer vacation typically lasts 2 weeks.
8) Daylight Saving Time. Like the US, Europe will bring clocks forward 1 hour for the summer and 1 hour back for the winter. While Europe generally moves as one on this, the date may not be the same as the US. Europe trend to start DST on the last Sunday in March and end it on the last Sunday in October. Many a transatlantic phone call / video meeting has been missed because of this. Use sites such as http://www.timeanddate.com/time/dst/2016.html to check up.
10) It is very difficult (practically impossible) in many EU countries to purchase email lists and consent for marketing emails is very strict in some markets. You cannot just use the methods you use at home.
Interested in finding out more about doing business in Europe? Download our Ultimate Guide to Doing Business in Europe!