I have business cards, but I must admit that I find it harder and harder to see the point of them. Quite often, I will ask a colleague to send me an email with contact information because that’s efficient and environmentally friendly.

If you travel globally, however, think again. In many cultures, particularly Asian ones, the exchange of business cards is something of a ritual. It isn’t just important to do it — you also have to follow a few basic rules. Here are a few tips:

Giving Business Cards

  1. Make sure your business cards are in pristine condition. Carry them in a case. (Never use a rubber band to hold a stack of them together.)
  2. Present the business card as if you are giving a gift. Use both hands, if possible. Otherwise use your right hand. Make sure that the person can read it immediately without turning it around.
  3. If you often do business in a particular country, consider having your card translated with one side in English, and the other side in the local language. Include the international country code for your telephone number on your card. The United States should be written as +1, for example.
  4. Present your card while standing. Never “deal” your cards as if you are playing poker!
  5. Always have your business card ready to present. In some cultures, not having a business card is rather like refusing to shake hands.

Receiving Business Cards

  1. Thank the person for the card. In Japan, a quick bow is appropriate.
  2. Accept the card with both hands. Handle it carefully and delicately.
  3. Take your time to read the card carefully.
  4. After studying the card, begin a friendly conversation that acknowledges that you’ve absorbed the information on the card. You may like to comment on the person’s profession, the office location, or the company.
  5. After sitting down for your meeting, place the card in front of you.
  6. Never write on a person’s card. And don’t even think of shoving it in your back pocket and sitting on it.