Business etiquette

Croatia-flag-140Business etiquette focuses on the behaviour deemed appropriate in a professional setting and you’ll be more likely to make an excellent impression on people you encounter if you maintain a professional approach.

Attitudes and values are very important in trying to develop a business relationship between two cultures or countries. Croatians are well known for their relaxed attitude to business, even though they maintain a high degree of professionalism. They are friendly and lively, but it will take them a few visits to get to know you before they can feel comfortable with you.

Attitudes and values are the foundations that drive behaviour and that gives us clues to people‘s thought patterns and what they consider important. Understanding these little details could be the difference between a successful business partnership and a failure.

Basic tips to follow when doing business in Croatia:

  • Greetings should include a firm handshake and direct eye contact, a weak handshake means that you are weak and no direct eye contact can be taken to mean that you are hiding something.
  • Remain standing until you are invited to sit down as there might be a seat reserved especially for you.
  • Always maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
  • Initial meetings are scheduled as introductions and a first meeting may be with a middle manager, rather than the actual decision maker.
  • Punctuality is expected and taken extremely seriously.
  • Expect some small talk and getting-to-know-you conversation before business is discussed
  • Business is conducted slowly. You will have to be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol
  • Companies tend to have a hierarchical structure, with decision-making power held at the top of the company.
  • Do not try to schedule meetings on Friday afternoons, as many Croatians leave for their country cottages after lunch.
  • Many businesses are closed during the month of August.
  • Letters should be addressed to the company rather than to a specific person. This prevents a letter from being held up if the person it is addressed to is away from the office.

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Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a partnership between companies, stakeholders and the government to integrate social and environmental concerns into their business operations on a voluntary basis.

The European Commission, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA Norway) financed projects supporting the development of Corporate Social Responsibility in Croatia from 2004 to 2008. This was done to help offset the financial burden on the companies and the government, because of the high cost of investing in new environmental friendly machineries. With Croatia about to be a permanent member of EU the government have to be stricter to both state and private companies that pollutes the atmosphere.

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In Croatian culture, it is very important to pay particular attention to your time-keeping skills. It is considered good manners, whether attending a business meeting or social lunch, to be punctual. A 15 minute grace period is normal in social settings, but might well be frowned upon in a formal business environment where punctuality is appreciated.

Gift giving

Small presents like a book or a souvenir representing the country you are visiting from would be acceptable. Expensive presents are not recommended and most companies have a ceiling on the value of the gift that can be accepted. Most business people would not expect gifts to be presented at the first meeting.

Business dress code

The dress code is formal in Croatia. Croatian business people wear suits to the office and to business meetings. Men wear suits with a jacket and tie, while women tend to have a wider range of options. Women’s business attire is formal and must not be too revealing. In any case, dressing well is a sign of respect, demonstrating your attitude to business and attention to detail.

Bribery and corruption

Bribery is used by both foreign and local businesses in order to acquire contracts or to cut through bureaucratic red tape when they are starting a new business. The main problem in Croatia seems to be the legal system, which has a backlog of over a million cases waiting to be heard.

The Corruption Perceptions Index (2012) from Transparency International charts levels of corruption in 176 countries throughout the World and places Croatia at 62nd on the list.

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