WORKING ABROAD / MAR. 02, 2015
version 7, draft 7

Attire That Is Considered Offensive Around the World

As the saying goes dress for the job you want, not the job you have, but sometimes that dress might be a tad on the short side. I know you’ve been working on your quads Terry, but no one wants to see the bottom of your bottom (I will not clarify that, please think about it for a second). Clothes that we wouldn’t think twice about wearing during our day to day interactions in another country could raise eyebrows at best, or get you put in jail at worse. Here are a few of those high fashion items you should avoid.

See also: Simple Things Considered Rude Around the World

Black or White

In Western culture, black is considered the color of mourning or funerals, but in certain countries in Asia white is the appropriate color for funeral-goers. For example, if you wrap a gift in white in China you could be reminding the recipient of his/her inevitable demise. Happy Birthday! You’re one year closer to your death! For any of you too slow to figure out that was sarcasm. The lesson is don’t wrap gifts in white paper while in Asia.

European Haute Couture

Haute Couture translates to ‘high fashion’ and has nothing to do with psychotropic drugs. On the contrary, it means a high level of refinement, elegance and craftsmanship. If you think you can roll into a meeting in France wearing an off-the-rack suit, you will be hurting your chances significantly. French are very particular with their fashion, which makes sense when you consider they have been one of the main fashion hubs for a few hundred years. Avoid costume (faux) jewelry and going over the top. The French appreciate high fashion, but they’re not expecting you to show up like Lady Gaga with a dress made out of salami and hotdogs.  

This advice can hold true for most of the southern European countries, including Italy, Spain and Greece. Avoid anything too casual; even for your day to day, you might need to get dinner or drinks with potential business partners, so try to keep your options refined.
Western Europe

Western Europe

Usually what holds true when it comes to business attire in the U.S. is appropriate in the U.K. unless you find yourself wheelin’ and dealin’ in a place like London, which is hip, young and fashion forward. Austria, Germany and many of the Scandinavian countries might need a bit more muted color use, and a bit stricter line to clothing.

The Middle East

Here the social standards for attire are especially significant. Many of the Middle Eastern countries are conservative and religious, so to do business with them you will have to make sure you respect these elements of their society. Especially if you are a female make sure that you wear clothes that cover your shoulders, knees and cleavage. If you think you might be visiting religious sites make sure you have a head covering with subdued colors and a long, loose dress.

Research

There are a myriad of websites dedicated to ‘what not to wear’ and ‘were not to wear it’. Before you embark on your international trip of intrigue and business, take a look at a few etiquette guides, forums and discussions boards as to what will be appropriate in what region of the world.

See also: The Stroop Test: Dressing for Success

Have you ever got in a spot of trouble due violating one of these clothing rules? How did you deal with it? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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