Adapting to a foreign business culture has its challenges, but this doesn't mean that you shouldn't try. Not only will your foreign colleagues appreciate the effort, it also reduces the risk of offending others and potentially severing a business relationship. Therefore, if you're planning a business trip to Hungary, here are several tips for success.
Meeting and Greetings
- Hungarians prefer face to face meetings. Make an appointment at least two months in advance. Avoid scheduling meetings on Friday afternoons, or between mid July and mid August. Also, avoid meetings between mid December and mid January.
- Offer a handshake when greeting a business person. Address this person by his or her title or surname.
- Punctuality is important. If you're running late, telephone your host immediately and provide an explanation. If possible, do not cancel a meeting at the last minute. This can create a rift in the business relationship.
- Business is not conducted during the initial meeting. This meeting is reserved for small talk, which gives colleagues the opportunity to know each other better.
- Wait for permission to remove a suit jacket.
- It's okay to bring an agenda to the meeting. However, Hungarians do not conduct line by line discussions.
- Business is conducted slowly, and because Hungarians are detailed-oriented, they'll ask a lot of questions and they will not make a decision until they understand everything.
- Because Hungarians are skilled negotiators, they do not respond well to vague statements, and they expect contracts to be concise. Any changes related to business must be in writing. Also, avoid confrontational behavior and high-pressure sales tactics.
- To build trust with a new business colleague, it's best to be introduced by someone the person knows.
- Hungarians are emotive speakers. They speak their mind and often use stories or jokes to make a point. They are suspicious of those who hide their feelings and thoughts.
- It is important to maintain good eye contact with business colleagues. This shows that you're sincere and trustworthy.
- Hungarian are social people. Therefore, be prepared for business luncheons and dinners. This is part of building a solid business relationship.
- If you're invited to a colleague's house, arrive no more than five minutes late for a business dinner. For larger gatherings, arrive no more than 30 minutes late. You may be asked to remove your shoes before entering the house. Also, it's poor etiquette to request a tour of the home.
- Do not start eating until the host starts. The host also initiates the first toast. Once you've completed your meal, toast the host to demonstrate appreciation for their hospitality.
There is no formal ritual for exchanging business cards in Hungary. However, one side of the card should be translated into Hungarian. On the Hungarian side, make sure that your surname comes before your first name. Also, include your university degrees on the business card, along with the founding date of your company.
Business attire in Hungary is formal and conservative. Appropriate attire for men includes a dark business suit with a white shirt and tie. Women can wear a business suit or a dress with modest accessories.
Gifts are not expected when visiting a company. However, if conducting business at a home, you can bring an inexpensive gift, such as chocolates, flowers or Western liquor. Give odd number flowers, but avoid 13 because it's an unlucky number. Other gifts to avoid include wine, lilies, red roses and chrysanthemums. It's customary to open gifts immediately.
The more you know about the local culture, the easier it'll be to make a good first impression and build a long-term working relationship with your foreign counterparts.