As one of the foremost English-speaking countries in Africa–second only to South Africa–Zimbabwe is a country where many international companies seek to expand. You may find that your company sends you to this African country on a business trip, and it’s important that you know how to handle yourself properly.
Business etiquette in Zimbabwe is fairly similar to business etiquette in Europe, but there are a few things you need to know about.
Those doing business usually dress well, as a professional look speaks highly of your professionalism. Men usually wear the standard suit and tie, with darker colors being the top choice for a professional appearance. Women usually wear conservative outfits, but a bit of style is acceptable. Accessories should be kept simple. Sleeveless attire and dresses cut above the knees are not appropriate for the workplace.
Men greet other men with a firm handshake, though close friends and family members can use hugs and/or a pat on the back. For women meeting women, a handshake is also appropriate. For men meeting women and vice versa, a handshake is the proper greeting in the city, while rural meetings usually involve a handshake, a step backwards, and a gentle clapping of the hands.
It’s best to address people by their title (Dr., Reverend, Mr., Mrs., etc.), and you should only use their first name once they invite you to do so.
Greet the person closest to you first, and move on to the people spread around the room in order of proximity to you.
If you are exchanging business cards, you must hand the card over with your right hand while taking the other person’s card with your left. Sometimes, you will hand the business card to the other person with two hands.
It is important to be punctual for your meetings in Zimbabwe, as it shows respect when you arrive on time. You don’t NEED to arrive early, but never arrive late unless otherwise avoidable. If you must arrive late, you will need to present a valid excuse as to why. Allow your host to open the business discussions, and they must always close the discussions as well.
Negotiations For negotiations, a calm, pensive demeanor is important. Sometimes negotiations will become emotional, and that is acceptable. However, for the most part, it’s best to stay calm and let your counterpart think things through before a decision is made.
Always be honest about prices.
When giving a gift, make sure it is wrapped. It will always be opened in private, but the gift recipient must express gratitude upon receiving the gift. Gifts are appreciated, though they aren’t expected. You don’t need to worry about offending your hosts by not offering them gifts, but it’s a good idea to do so if you want to make a positive impression. Bring gifts from out of the country, particularly if they cannot be found in Zimbabwe.
It’s good to learn a bit of the local language, at least enough for some rudimentary conversation. Learn phrases like:
How are you?
These all help to ingratiate you to your host, and will give them a good impression of you. It shows you’re not just interested in business, but that you care about them and their country as well.
With the advice above, you’re ready to do business in Zimbabwe! Good luck, and happy negotiations.