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Business Card Etiquette

The Edmontonians
May 2000

North Americans and Europeans have been taught to stand up, look you in the eye and give a firm handshake.

Asians, who don't want to be pushy, tend to have a soft handshake and they of ten look down in humility. This does not mean that they are 'wishy-washy', it means their upbringing was different from yours. This cultural difference in etiquette is by no means unique.

Consider business cards. I have seen business cards flying across fancy Toronto board-room tables.

I cringe.

In other parts of the world you do not switch companies the way we do here, and your whole identity is woven into the company you work for.

Please, Torontonians, present your business cards with your right hand directly to the person it is intended for, and show some reverence for the card you are about to receive.

Asians present their card with both hands and in such a way, that one can read it while receiving it. Take it with your right hand, or both hands.

If it is a boardroom setting, leave it out in front of you so that you can glance at it. And, whatever you do with it afterwards, donít put it in your back pocket, because you'll be sitting on their face!

After the person is out of sight, it's a good idea to jot down the odd thing about him on the back of his card, for example the date and place where you met, and something that might remind you of him, usually his looks -- tall, skinny man, funny haircut, front tooth missing, whatever.

Next month we will talk about how to treat visitors from other countries whose sole purpose is to come to Toronto to do business with you.

Adeodata Czink is president of BUSINESS OF MANNERS, a Toronto-based company providing seminars in international etiquette, formal dining, and social graces. E-mail at