Doing business in Slovakia
The expansion of the EU to include former Eastern Bloc countries makes doing business in these countries an attractive prospect for a large number of companies, while many Slovaks regard doing business with the UK as an opportunity to be grabbed with both hands. The open borders seem to offer endless opportunities, but doing business with Slovakia is very different than it may be in the UK. Some understanding of the hierarchical structure and the culture of the country is necessary if your business undertakings are to succeed. The Slovakian trading mentality is something of a mix of Western European and American on the one hand and Eastern European and Russian on the other. This can be a source of a good deal of confusion, not least because of the language barrier. The problem with language can be alleviated, however, by making use of a recognised translation agency.
Important cultural differences when doing business in Slovakia
Anyone who wants to do business in Slovakia would do well to do their homework beforehand in order to have some knowledge about important cultural differences. The tips below will give you an impression of Slovakian business etiquette, which is something that can contribute to mutual understanding and a successful collaboration.
Tip 1: Hierarchy
Titles are status symbols in Slovakia and they are given on all business cards. It is important to give an academic title because this will increase your standing and precipitate collaboration. Decisions, however small, are taken at the top.
Tip 2: Build relationships and win trust
For a Slovak, an initial meeting is not to talk business, but to gauge each other’s character. It is not only important to make time for this but to make a serious impression, while at the same time, not talking about any proposal or deal. Building social contacts before talking about business is one of the unwritten rules of doing business in Slovakia.
Tip 3: Business contacts
If a relationship has been established and trust has been won, you still have to make a serious impression as a potential business partner. Direct eye contact, politeness, and reliability in respect to agreements is of huge importance. Criticism and a direct ‘no’ are not appreciated and will bring future collaboration to a halt.
Tip 4: Coming to an agreement
Doing business in Slovakia means making agreements in writing and asking for an appointment well in advance; in the case of appointments, a few weeks beforehand. If sending correspondence by fax or letter, it is important to make sure that it has been received on time by the right person. Delays can be the cause of further delays and the failure to keep to agreements. Confirm an appointment a few days beforehand to make sure that you don’t make an unnecessary journey.
Tip 5: Business meeting
Whereas in the UK you might have a cup of tea and a biscuit during a business meeting, in Slovakia, there’ll be a toast with spirits (Slovakian gin or brandy).
Potential pitfalls when doing business in Slovakia
The country is generally regarded as being part of Europe but, depending on how you look at it, it is also a country in Eastern Europe, and a former Eastern Bloc country. Because the country is still unsure of its identity and hovers between two worlds, cultural differences can not only lead to misunderstandings but can create difficulties in business contacts.
Although the use of English in trade is increasing, German is still used in many cases, as is Russian, although the latter is not appreciated by everyone. The new generation prefers to use English. However, in order to avoid misunderstandings, it is advisable to translate your documents into Slovak. This is an area in which we will be happy to help you. Our professional translators and interpreters can help you to do business in Slovakia. Have a look at our website or get in touch with us for a no-obligation quotation.
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