ILN: business cards around the world

History of the business card

Modern day business cards have evolved from 15th century ‘Meishi’ or royal announcement cards as described here in this info-graphic (link)

The Evolution of Business Cards

Business card etiquette

Even in this age of electronic signatures, smart phones, and virtual assistants; business cards are still exchanged every day. But would you know what to do with your card in Russia, China or Turkey? Conducting business in an international environment requires a bit cultural sensitivity and as we’ve all learned here in the ILN what is considered perfectly acceptable in one country can be very rude in another. Exchanging business cards can be a very formal affair in some areas and almost non existent in others.  But in researching this blog post I found a few general guidelines that cover a range of countries:

  • Treat business cards with respect and place received cards into a business card holder
  • If you can, have your card translated into the local language on the back of your card
  • Never write on someone else’s business card
  • Include your title on your card, it helps others to know your organisational structure

Some country specific guidelines

  • Australia– ‘Exchanging business cards is not as common as in some other countries, but not unheard of. Business card should be handed over in the beginning of meetings. Don’t be worried if you do not get one back, this could be because the other person does not have one or that he does not see the point of giving you one since he is the client.’
  • Azerbaijan– ‘Give and receive cards with your right hand.’
  • China– Gold and red are considered lucky in China so consider incorporating those into your business card design
  • Iran– ‘Only senior-level individuals exchange business cards.’
  • India– ‘Use your right hand to present and accept business cards.’
  • Italy– ‘To demonstrate proper respect for the other person, look closely at their business card before putting it in your card holder.’
  • Japan– ‘Business cards are exchanged constantly, with great ceremony are given and received with two hands and a slight bow Also, treat the business card you receive as you would the person.’
  • Kenya– ‘Present and receive business cards with two hands.’
  • Russia– ‘Include advanced university degrees on your business card.’
  • South Africa– ‘Business cards are normal practice but little ceremony surrounds their exchange’
  • The UK– ‘The business card may be put away with only a cursory glance.’
  • Turkey– ‘Business card should be presented to the receptionist upon arrival.’
  • United States of America– ‘Americans view the business card as a source of future information and tend to exchange cards casually. There is no set ritual for exchanging business cards.’
  • Western Europe–  ‘Never put your cards in a stack on the table at a reception.’

Business card design

And just for a bit of fun, eere are some web sites that include examples of innovative and beautiful business card design.


Do you know of any more customs around the use and exchange of business cards? Share them with us here, on our Facebook page or on Twitter



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