Sharon Reid


The advent of technological advancement has revolutionised the way we conduct global business. Despite obtaining more access to overseas clients/customers and colleagues via email, Skype or video conferencing, nothing beats good old face to face meetings as a means of making new connections or solidifying existing relations. Face to face contact enables us to decipher body language and the subtle nuances not always apparent during a video conference or Skype call.

Many of us are required to travel abroad for business purposes, being respectful of different cultural mores is essential when travelling for pleasure, once you factor in a business trip, misunderstanding local business customs, conventions and practices could be a veritable minefield! Fortunately, help is at hand courtesy of Travelex: who specialise in foreign exchange, via their ‘Business Abroad: The Etiquette Handbook’, an e-guide with tips and useful local knowledge for 11 of the most popular business cities in the world. In order to gain insight into current travel trends and the issues faced by the modern international business traveller, Travelex carried out a survey with over 1000 UK business travellers* ranging in age from 18 –55+.image

The survey revealed that the ten most popular cities for business travel are:

  1. Paris
  2. Berlin
  3. = Dublin
  1. = New York
  2. Hong Kong
  3. Amsterdam
  4. Madrid
  5. Stockholm
  6. Mexico City
  7. Oslo

One in four business travellers say they feel anxious when travelling abroad with work. Cultural differences are a concern to almost a quarter of respondents, however they do little to prevent embarrassing situations and cultural misunderstandings from taking place as only a shocking 30% say they feel comfortable adapting to local customs!185777401

Embarrassing moments

The top five embarrassing moments came in the form of:

  1. Language difficulties e.g. saying the wrong word, reading the wrong signs for the toilets, not being able to communicate at all
  2. Inappropriate dress e.g. for meetings, not taking shoes off, women’s dress code
  3. Greetings – shaking hands and bowing at the wrong times… even head butting a monk whilst trying to bow!
  4. Lost items e.g. wallets and luggage left people without documents, clothing and means to get around
  5. Food etiquette – ordering the wrong thing, eating with fingers, food poisoning one respondent claimed, “When in China, the Chinese will often spit up their food, into a bag. This lead to my colleague wretching continuously for half an hour.”

Christian, 28, a Marketing Manager with a leading publishing house can relate to number four on the list, and suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction when his luggage was delayed:

“Being the typical ‘Brit travelling’ abroad, I was dressed very casually on a flight to Berlin; it was a particularly hot summer in Berlin and I wore what I considered to be appropriate attire: shorts, t-shirt and Converse trainers. My smart work clothes were in my suitcase which to my horror was delayed and to top it off I had a client breakfast meeting first thing in the morning. Luckily, I was able to buy a much smarter outfit during the evening, the meeting was a success but my bosses were not too happy when I put my expenses through.”


The most expensive destinations for business trips – amount spent per day:

  1.  Riyadh, Saudi Arabia £1429
  2. Beijing, China £900.54
  3. Toronto, Canada £759.88
  4. Oslo, Norway £705.05
  5. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia £668.21
  6. Sao Paulo, Brazil £655.05
  7. Stockholm, Sweden £640.10
  8. New York, USA £634.77
  9. Mumbai, India £629.67
  10. Sydney, Australia £544.25
  11. Dubai, UAE £534.32
  12. Geneva, Switzerland £504.91
  13. Singapore £494.25
  14. Bangkok, Thailand £438
  15. Amsterdam, The Netherlands £385.18

The most common methods of payment for business travellers…american-express-89024_640

  • Given company credit card (28%)
  • Everything is prepaid meaning there is no expense to the employee (15%)
  • Employees pay out and then claims back immediately (14%)
  • Employee pays out and then claims back within 1 week (10%)
  • Employees are given currency beforehand (10%)
  • Employee pays out and then claims back within 2 weeks (8%)
  • Employee pays out and then claims back within 1 month (7%)
  • I pay out of my own pocket and they pay me back within 3 weeks (2%)
  • I pay for all my own expenses (2%)
  • I pay out of my own pocket and the company pays me back over a month later (2%)

Like 28% of business travellers surveyed, Savannah a 34 year old Content Editor has her own company credit card which she uses wisely:

“We are given budgets which we are expected to adhere to. I’m genuinely good with money having incurred crippling personal credit card debt when I was in my mid 20’s. Our Financial Director is very happy with me compared to some of my more spendthrift colleagues.”

Though it is most common for employees to be given a company credit card almost a third (30%) of business travellers have purchased a credit card to manage their expenses and:

  • 36% have been charged fees for using their credit cards abroad
  • 17% have been charged commission when exchanging cash at airports


If you are anxious about a forthcoming business trip abroad or perhaps you are curious about different global business customs, then download Travelex’s FREE useful Business Etiquette guide.

For further information about Travelex please visit:

*A survey of 1000 Brits was conducted by Travelex in August 2015