Business over breakfast?

Valerie Berset-Price

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Dear Valérie,

I am a German national who works as an executive assistant at an U.S. firm in charge of arranging my boss’ travel schedule as well as the ones of the employees of his department. My boss and employees insist on having me set up breakfast meetings with clients while in Europe, something that I honestly can’t do, as I feel that breakfast to Europeans is a private meal where business is never discussed. My co-workers tell me that I am old school and don’t understand business efficiency. What do you think? Old school or just good etiquette?

Thank you!

Frauke

Dear Frauke,

You nailed it! Business over breakfast in Europe is considered tacky and improper. Breakfast is the time one spends at home with family, catching up with world news, mentally preparing oneself for the day. Asking people out to breakfast is not part of the cultural norm in most European countries and should be avoided at all cost.

Additionally, meal time in Europe is spent talking about social matters and learning about one another as human beings (not business partners). It is thus important to realize that there are some clear boundaries to respect. However, meal time is a time where the visitor will be carefully observed, assessing one’s level of polish (table manners, world views, current events, etc.). It is hence not the time to be too loose and consider that time as “off the record.” It isn’t. It is, in fact, during those social occasions that Europeans will often decide if the person in front of them is worth doing business with. My recommendation is to always mind your Ps and Qs while respecting the local customs.

Hope this helps!

Valérie

Do you have a question for Going Global? Email Valerie@vbjusa.com. Please note that the Vancouver Business Journal and Valerie Berset-Price reserve the right to publish your letter or an edited version in all print and electronic media.

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