Slovakia has a number of things that makes it very appealing to companies and corporations: no taxes on dividends, a cheap yet skilled labor force, a flat taxation rate for individuals and corporations, an excellent geographical location, and liberal labor laws.
As a result of these policies foreign investment in the country has increased by nearly 600% in the last 10 years, making it an ideal place to conduct business. The country specializes in metallurgy, food processing, chemicals, and car manufacturing, so if you work in one of these industries, it’s likely that you’ll enjoy doing business in Slovakia.
However, Slovakia does have its own unique culture and business etiquette. It is important that you follow these rules to maximize your business success:
When greeting your Slovakian counterpart, a firm handshake is always preferred. Maintain direct eye contact as you shake hands. If you shake with weak wrists, it indicates weakness; a lack of direct eye contact is often an indication of your hiding something.
After the greetings are completed, WAIT until you are invited to sit. The host may have reserved a seat for you.
Gifts should be simple, but with sufficient value to ensure that your host feels appreciated. Gifts are usually opened immediately upon receipt, and it’s important to express delight at what you are receiving.
NEVER give calla lilies or chrysanthemums as gifts. They are traditionally presented at funerals.
You should always schedule your meetings well in advance. Avoid Friday evening meetings, as many executives leave work after Friday lunch. June and August are fairly slow business months, as they are holiday seasons.
Your first meeting is usually meant to allow you and your host to get to know each other. You may meet with the middle manager first, and you will usually engage in small talk and a bit of personal conversation before you actually start the meeting. Only on your second or third meeting will you actually come face to face with the decision maker. Decision-making power is always held by the highest executive in the company; Slovaks are very hierarchical.
Slovaks tend to be non-confrontational, taking a more indirect approach to negotiations. They are often more cautious in their business dealings, and tend to be guarded when interacting with strangers. You’ll need to read between the lines in order to understand what is being said--and not said. Slovaks do not gesticulate wildly, but they are more reserved in their communication.
Patience is a MUST when doing business in Slovakia, as negotiations tend to run on for a long time. Always maintain eye contact as you talk, as it shows that you are honest and open. Avoiding or failing to maintain eye contact may be seen as dishonesty or deception, or, even worse, lack of interest.
When addressing someone, you should address them by their profession rather than by their name. For example, if your business contact is the general manager of a company, address him as "Mr. General Manager" rather than "Mr. His Name".
The younger generation may prefer to be addressed by their surnames rather than by their titles.
Punctuality is taken very seriously in Slovakia. Arriving late shows disrespect to your host, and can start your negotiations off on the wrong foot. Always arrive at least 10 minutes early, and sit patiently to wait for your host.
Most executives in Slovakia speak more than one language. Russian, German, and English are commonly spoken in the country, and those from the south of the country may speak Hungarian as well. French and German are commonly taught in university, so younger executives may speak those languages in addition to English and Russian.
With these tips, you can navigate the business world of beautiful Slovakia and hopefully have a fruitful business venture!