International Business Card Customs

A universal method of exchanging contact details, the business card is something which is used in countries the world over. Just like many of these countries have differing customs in everyday life, there are also certain social rules which should be followed when handing out business cards. This guide outlines business card etiquette in a selection of countries across the globe for those who count international travel as one of their regular tasks.

The UK and America

Great Britain and the US have fairly relaxed ideas about how business cards should be exchanged. The process is informal and friendly, and multiple cards are often exchanged to pass around to friends or colleagues. The only hard rule is for the printed and professional business card to be in pristine condition; a scruffy or ragged business card can give the wrong impression about an individual so it is important for them to be perfectly presented.


In Japan virtually everyone over the age of eighteen has their own business card. It is customary in this country to hold out business cards with both hands when exchanging them, before accepting a business card with both hands as a sign of respect. After the card exchange has taken place it is traditional to state one’s name and title; bowing after the exchange is traditional but is often replaced with a simple handshake when dealing with foreigners.


Like Japan, the exchange of business cards in China requires the person presenting the card to offer it with both hands. The text must be facing upwards and a title should be clearly present. Everything should be presented obviously and plainly, with company titles and relevant contact details made clear. If opting to translate a card into Chinese from English for use in the country, simplified Chinese has the most commonly used characters and will be the most easily recognisable to the largest number of people. It is also important to be aware of different regional languages such as Mandarin and Cantonese. The use of gold on business cards is not so much a custom, but the shade is considered lucky and a card with gold print is more likely to be looked upon positively.


Germany is a hub for business and popular with English businesses opting to move into European markets. Printed business cards aren’t as freely given in Germany as they are in some western countries, and should not be handed out in bulk. They are a more personal exchange, with the business card treated as confidential and private property.

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