Avoid the sin bin: How to do business during the Rugby World Cup

With the Rugby World Cup in full flow Chris Baker, managing director of UK enterprise at Concur, explains how you can avoid the corporate hospitality sin bin when liaising with different cultures.


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Being sensitive to different cultures can help you get ahead at the Rugby World Cup.

The Rugby World Cup is the world’s third largest sporting event and England are off to a flying start on home turf. Perhaps it was Prince Harry’s rousing ‘Game on!’ speech at the opening ceremony or the booming and relentless singing of the crowd that inspired them to victory, but just like every other team playing in the competition England have their own distinct style of play.

From our own historic 10 man approach, to the brutal forward play of the South American teams and South Africa’s one direction mindset, France’s flair, Australia’s exuberance all the way through to New Zealand’s ‘total rugby’. Each and every nation is pursuing and celebrating its own diverse approach to the game.

The six week tournament will be played across 13 venues in 11 cities up and down the country. In total it is predicted that the tournament will inject a massive £2.2 billion into the UK economy. It is a big business opportunity. But while us Brits might think nothing of suggesting we head to the pub for a few beers, every culture has a different etiquette when it comes to corporate hospitality. Below we’ve compiled some useful tips to help you seamlessly network with other rugby playing nations:

  1. Kick off on time
    The Australians are sticklers for punctuality as too are the New Zealanders. And with our antipodean friends remember – lunch is for business and evening events are very much hospitality.
  2. Plan recovery time
    And remember your wallet. The person that extended an invitation for a meal or drink is expected to pay in France, where dinner invitations usually commence around 8:30 p.m. and finish just before midnight.
  3. Look them in the white of the eye
    Uruguayans, in addition to their directness, maintain undeviating eye contact throughout a conversation, as it is sign of respect, kindness and interest in their counterpart. Closeness is also important: if you stand a foot or two back it will be considered a sign of rudeness.
  4. Don’t chat back, and make sure you get clarity
    Alongside it not being sensible to interrupt a South African while they are speaking; make sure you get the specifics from them too. If you ask a Springbok when a requested task is supposed to be done, South Africans may say ‘just now’, but it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘this instant’. You should find a way to ask for a more specific deadline.
  5. Don’t pour your own drinks
    While dragon slayers Japan will be celebrating their victory against South Africa. It is considered rude to pour a drink yourself. Always let someone else pour it for you.

And in the World Cup era of bonus points, it is important to ensure that your own expenses policy is clearly understood. Like the teams in the World Cup, every company is different. But a clear expense policy, that is supported by a firm’s values and is drawn up in collaboration with your team, properly communicated, accessible and transparent does mean that employees will be performing at their peak. Just as following business etiquette will help convert business opportunities, keeping in touch of your corporate travel and entertainment polices will help keep you the right side of the touch line, convert business and put policy problems into touch.

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