Business Card Etiquette

April 9, 2015 Heba Nady

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Surprisingly, mom is not always right, especially in the world of networking. Contrary to our mothers' constant reminder to never talk to strangers, the art of socializing and networking requires us to do exactly the opposite!

In fact, the more strangers you share information with, the more chances there are for socializing which can lead to career or business opportunities.

We may have been taught not to speak to strangers, but at the end of the day a profitable future awaits if we make the right connection, and isn't that what makes most moms happy?


Evolution of Business Cards

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Note: Image Credit

The etiquette for introducing yourself and presenting a business card has been around since 17th century France.  Historically, gentlemen presented a card before meeting an acquaintance, an aristocrat, royalty or even a relative. This card was referred to as a visiting card.

This gesture became the tradition of most households in that era.  It was labeled the most sophisticated and highest type of gesture and was expected in upper and middle class society.

While 17th century France has been credited with introducing this custom, China is believed to have practiced the use of visiting cards two centuries earlier, as Meishi. In 15th century China, Meishi was distributed among people of a kingdom to announce the arrival of royalty.

In the 20th century, the use of these cards revolutionized and are now being used as a means of personal and business introductions. In today's lingo, these cards are known as business cards.


Presenting the Card

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Traditionally, social interactions were limited to elite and well-mannered individuals. However, as time passed the users of business cards broadened.  Despite the numbers of business

cards being printed every day, having a card is not enough, the manner in which you introduce yourself and present your card is an important element.

That rings true for cultures and manners around the world. Business cards are an extension of one's identity, and cards should be presented in a way that reflects that.

Standards and rituals were created for exchanging cards. These protocols are essential, as this modern society requires an adaptive nature to these diversities

Below is a list of some cultural practices regarding business cards.


Japanese Culture

  • Bow before handing the business card as a sign of respect
  • Never write anything on the card
  • At meetings, make sure business cards are placed on the table in the order people are seated

Chinese Culture

  • Put a Chinese translation of your information on the back of your card as appreciation of the culture
  • Never write anything on the card

Arab Culture

  • Hand out business cards using the right hand or with both hands

Indian (India) Culture

  • Put university degrees and honors on business cards to display achievements

American Culture

  • No strict rituals are being followed in this culture

These cultures have their own customs, but there is a must do list of owning and using business cards across all cultures.

  • Business cards must be clean and precise
  • Never take a business card from a wallet, use a card case for a more professional look
  • Never put your business cards in your back pocket
  • Hold the corner of the business card and make sure that company information and logos are not covered
  • Make sure the business card is facing the recipient so he/she will be able to easily read it
  • When receiving a business card, hold it with both hands and review the information on it before you put it away

Lasting Impression


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What we put on our business cards say who we are, thus self-expression is a highly suggested theme when making a business card.  A business card with personality is a business card worth keeping. Having a stand out business card increases your chances of being noticed and remembered.

Printing companies now design various templates to make cards more appealing. Acceptable card shapes have changed from rectangular to combinations of shapes and textures.  Business cards have evolved and definitely reflect the modern generations.

Even though we strive for beauty and simplicity, certain facts must be considered and the content of a business card needs to be controlled. Never put a misleading statement on your business card.  The digital generation has made it acceptable to include additional information including email addresses, blog sites and social media accounts, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn on business cards.



Business cards will continue to evolve over time, but the reason for their existence will stay the same. Business cards are the only formal way of getting to know a stranger.  The manner and customs surrounding this card may be a small representation of the owner, but once it's delivered correctly the possibilities for career advancement and business opportunities increase rapidly.


Translation and Localization Resources

You may gain further insights into global e-business, global SEO and website translation and country specific cultural facts and related topics by reviewing some previous blogs written by Globalization Partners:

Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services.  Also let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs.  You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.

About the Author

Heba Nady

Hebatullah (Heba) Mahmoud Nady is a native Arabic speaker who lives in Cairo, Egypt. She has 11 years of experience in client relations and project management, working in different industries, such as publishing, oil and gas and translation and localization. Heba holds a B.A. degree in English Language and Literature from Ain Shams University, and has a great passion for language and culture. She has been actively managing many localization and translation projects for major clients since 2008 and is well versed in a wide range of localization tools and practices. Heba enjoys working with teams from different cultures and bringing people together to achieve a common goal. For her, translation is a mission that contributes to enriching Arabic and other cultures and languages. In her free time, Heba likes to read about literature and management and go sightseeing.

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