A firm handshake is the norm; there are no issues over gender in the UK.
People shake upon meeting and leaving.
Maintain eye contact during the greeting but avoid anything prolonged.
Most people use the courtesy titles or Mr, Mrs or Miss and their surname.
Wait until invited before moving to a first-name basis. People under the age of 35 may make this move more rapidly than older British.
Business cards are exchanged at the initial introduction without formal ritual.
The business card may be put away with only a cursory glance so don’t be offended if not much attention is paid to it.
The British Communication Style
British etiquette business
The British have an interesting mix of communication styles encompassing both understatement and direct communication. Many older businesspeople or those from the 'upper class' rely heavily upon formal use of established protocol. Most British are masters of understatement and do not use effusive language. If anything, they have a marked tendency to use ‘qualifiers’ such as 'perhaps', ‘possibly’ or 'it could be'.
When communicating with people they see as equal to themselves in rank or class, the British are direct, but modest. If communicating with someone they know well, their style may be more informal, although they will still be reserved.
Written communication follows strict rules of protocol. How a letter is closed varies depending upon how well the writer knows the recipient. Written communication is always addressed using the person's title and their surname. First names are not generally used in written communication, unless you know the person well.
E-mail is now much more widespread, however the communication style remains more formal, at least initially, than in many other countries. Most British will not use slang or abbreviations and will think negatively if your communication appears overly familiar.
The British can be quite formal and sometimes prefer to work with people and companies they know or who are known to their associates. The younger generation however is very different; they do not need long-standing personal relationships before they do business with people and do not require an intermediary to make business introductions. Nonetheless, networking and relationship building are often key to long-term business success.
Most British look for long-term relationships with people they do business with and will be cautious if you appear to be going after a quick deal.
If you plan to use an agenda, be sure to forward it to your British colleagues in sufficient time for them to review it and recommend any changes.
Punctuality is important in business situations. In most cases, the people you are meeting will be on time. Scots are extremely punctual. Call if you will be even 5 minutes later than agreed. Having said that, punctuality is often a matter of personal style and emergencies do arise. If you are kept waiting a few minutes, do not make an issue of it. Likewise, if you know that you will be late it is a good idea to telephone and offer your apologies.
How meetings are conducted is often determined by the composition of people attending:
If everyone is at the same level, there is generally a free flow of ideas and opinions.
If there is a senior ranking person in the room, that person will do most of the speaking.
In general, meetings will be rather formal:
Meetings always have a clearly defined purpose, which may include an agenda.
There will be a brief amount of small talk before getting down to the business at hand.
If you make a presentation, avoid making exaggerated claims.
Make certain your presentation and any materials provided appear professional and well thought out.
Be prepared to back up your claims with facts and figures. The British rely on facts, rather than emotions, to make decisions.
Maintain eye contact and a few feet of personal space.
After a meeting, send a letter summarizing what was decided and the next steps to be taken.