If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ll know the Rugby World Cup kicked off on Friday. The six week tournament will be played across 13 venues in 11 cities up and down the country. With an estimated 466,000 supporters set to support their teams over the next six weeks, the competition is expected to inject £2.2 billion into the economy.
It’s also a great opportunity to use corporate hospitality to win over rugby fans. But not all of the 20 countries in the tournament have the same approach to business entertainment. So if you’re looking to use the World Cup to entertain clients and staff from rugby-playing nations, how do you avoid rucking and mauling with your international counterparts?
1. Australia & New Zealand: Kick off on time
The Australians are sticklers for punctuality - as too are Kiwis. And with our Antipodean friends remember lunch is for business and evening events are very much hospitality. Dinner is generally a quiet affair, with all the talking done after you eat. Boisterous behaviour is frowned upon, even when drinking, so be sure to pace yourself.
2. France: Plan recovery time - and remember your wallet
The person extending an invitation for a meal or drink is expected to pay in France, where dinner invitations are usually arranged for 8.30pm and don’t usually finish until just before midnight. Most importantly for pint drinkers, remember there’s no beer when you’re dining with the French - and let your hosts select the drinks.
3. Uruguay: Look them in the eye
Uruguayans are extremely direct. They also maintain undeviating eye contact throughout a conversation, which is considered to be a sign of respect, kindness and interest in you. If you were to stand back by a foot or two, it would be viewed as rude. In addition to adjusting your idea of personal space, it’s important to make small talk before getting down to business as relationships are important. Here in Blighty being punctual might be important, but if you’re invited to dinner by a Uruguayan you should aim to arrive to dinner half an hour later than the stated time.
4. Japan: Don’t pour your own drinks
While giant slayers Japan will be celebrating their victory against South Africa, bear in mind it is considered rude to pour a drink yourself. Always let someone else pour it for you. Business talk is acceptable at any point during a meal, but the host will insist on ordering and paying for the meal. A lot of business entertaining is done in restaurants and bars after business hours, and no doubt after weekend’s result the Japanese will be in fine voice. Just don’t invite any South Africans you want to keep sweet.
5. Georgia: Expect things to get heated - and leave the beer at home
Credit: Paata Vardanashvili
Despite meetings often being focused on interpersonal relationships and making sure other people are kept happy, Georgians are no strangers to telling you how they feel. Don’t panic if faced with gesticulating guests, raised voices and flashes of anger: it’s the Georgian way. Also, if you’re guest is of an older generation, avoid toasting them with a beer - although less so nowadays, this has long been seen as a fierce insult in their native country.
The Rugby World Cup is the world’s third largest sporting event and a huge opportunity to build and nurture international business links. But, if you want to keep hospitality fun and focused on the game, make sure you’re sensitive to cultural differences. Otherwise instead of scoring a try you could well find yourself being sent to the sin bin.
Chris Baker is managing director of UK enterprise at Concur.