If you've never traveled to Africa - or outside your home country for that matter - learning that you'll spend some time in the Central African Republic might be exciting news. On one hand, you're ready for a new adventure. But on the other hand, you may not be familiar with the local business culture and customs.
It's perfectly normal to approach this situation with a bit of nervousness; however, the following steps can help you master business etiquette in the Central African Republic.
French is the official language of the Central African Republic. Although it's customary to speak French during meetings and appointments, it's also acceptable to speak your native tongue. However, you'll need to confirm that your host speaks your language, and if he or she doesn't, bring along an interpreter.
In addition, your business cards should be printed in French, and any written materials you hand out during appointments or meetings should be in French.
Although it's professional to arrive on time to meetings or appointments, business people in the Central Republic of African do not frown upon lateness. As a matter of fact, it's not unusual for locals to arrive late to work or business events.
Locals typically establish a personal relationship with each other before getting down to business; and it takes more than one meeting to develop trust. To get to know each other better, business people may participate in after hour activities with a client, such as going out for a drink or meal. Appropriate topics to discuss during these interactions include family, sports, jobs, and neighborhoods. Do not discuss politics. Differing viewpoints might turn off your colleague.
Greeting a Colleague
Although locals tend to be very expressive and physical contact is the norm during daily interaction, business people typically greet each other with a handshake and warm smile. It is also customary to maintain good eye contact when greeting or speaking with other professionals. However, you should never stare, as this may make the other person uneasy. It's important to note that handshakes aren't limited to the initial meeting - but rather each time you greet the person.
Central Africans are discreet, respectful people. It's okay to express different types of emotions. However, extreme anger in public is often viewed as scandalous. Therefore, business people avoid getting overly upset or frustrated with their counterparts. And while it's acceptable to confront a colleague about an issue, this encounter should take place in a calm, professional manner.
Due to the hot and humid climate in central Africa, business casual attire is acceptable in many companies. The only time employees are required to wear a business suit is when attending a ceremony or other special event. Appropriate business casual attire might include short-sleeved shirts and dress pants. However, shorts, t-shirts and sandals are not acceptable in the workplace.
This is a big concern in the Central Republic of Africa, primarily due to business people taking time off to mourn the death of a relative or close friend. In some cases, it might take up to two weeks to travel to a funeral outside the region; and seemingly mundane tasks can take an entire day, such as cashing a paycheck, going to doctor appointments or renewing a document.
All in all, business people in the Central Republic of Africa are friendly, generous and informal. If you manage to build a trusting relationship with colleagues and respect their culture, you'll fit in nicely with the company