To bow or not to bow?

A number of questions arise when it comes to the ritual of the small rectangular (or square) cards that smooth (or sour) business deals around the world. The humble business card: it weighs hardly anything, yet in many countries the whole business of business cards is heavy with meaning. How are your cards designed? How do you keep them pristine? How do you present your card to others? And – sometimes most importantly – how do you receive a business card without causing offence?

Read on for our guide to global business card etiquette.


North America & Canada

One of the few parts of the world where you won’t raise eyebrows by keeping cards loose in your pocket or bag. They need to be clean, but it’s okay to make notes on them.
Do: In French-speaking Canada a dual-language business card is appreciated.



This European powerhouse has one of the most traditional approaches to business cards on the Continent. Cards are a personal exchange and are thus seen as confidential.
Don’t: Hand out business cards in bulk.



A Russian translation on one side of your cards will show you‘re willing to work with them. It‘s ok to lay cards on the meeting table, mirroring the seating plan, as a name prompt.
Do: Include the year your company was founded on your cards. It helps the receiver work out where you and your firm sit in the business hierarchy.



Always give your card with your right hand (your left is seen as unclean). You must also receive cards with your right hand. To avoid a strange hand tango – don’t give and try to receive at the same time!
Add university degrees or honours to your card.


South Korea

Stand up when giving and receiving business cards – and nod your head as a gesture of respect, especially if meeting people senior to you. Never put a stack of cards on the table for people to take.
Don’t: Study the card for too long. Unlike other Asian countries, that is considered rude in South Korea.



If your company boasts an ‘-est’ (largest, oldest, etc.) then say so on your cards. They must be immaculate and presented with both hands, with the Chinese translation face up and the type facing the receiver so that the card can be read. Bow and thank the receiver for the chance to meet them. Present yours first and then ask for theirs. Never put away a card without reading and commenting on it.
Do: Think about using red or gold in your card design, both auspicious colours in China.



Business cards are as essential as breathing in Japan. Seen as a way of showing social and business standing, to be without a business card is akin to not existing. The highest ranking person in the room gives out their business card first. Cards, which must be immaculate and face down, are always given and received with both hands.
Do: Keep a card you have been handed on display for the rest of the conversation.


Australia & New Zealand

Just because Australasian business meetings have a relaxed air does not mean that business cards are redundant. Used without formality, cards are a way of moving to first names during introductions.
Do: Feel free to hand out cards at the end of the meeting when sharing contact details for follow-ups.


Written by Sian Lewis