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Southern European customs every business traveller should know

Southern European customs

When you think about avoiding faux-pas on business travels, countries in Asia or Africa may spring to mind – places where cultural difference seem more apparent. However, there are several customs unique to Southern European countries that are often overlooked.

You should always be wary of these cultural differences to avoid embarrassing misunderstandings when business takes you to Southern Europe.

1. Eye contact

In contrast to customs on London tubes, it’s not considered rude to stare at people in most Southern Europe locations. In fact, in Italy it’s customary to stare back.

2. Physical contact

In many places, physical contact during conversations, whether it be backslapping or a tap on the shoulder, is considered offensive. However, in Spain and a number of Mediterranean countries, physical contact is incredibly common and not considered an intrusion.

3. Hand gestures

Hand gestures can mean all kinds of things in different cultures. Whereas in many places an open-palm gesture can be a greeting, a sign of friendship or one of openness, Greek culture sees things differently. Open palms are insulting – something to be wary of if you ever find yourself performing a presentation in Greece!

4. Head movements

In some Mediterranean countries, including Albania and Bulgaria, a single upwards nod of the head indicates refusal. In most of South-eastern Europe, a shake of the head means ‘yes.’

Want to ensure you avoid cultural mishaps wherever in the world business takes you? Take a look at our slideshow – 25 essential cultural differences for the business traveller.


Find out more about the future of business travel in our free Q&A guide with insights from leading industry experts, including Clarity and Traveleads.

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