Business card etiquette and design from around the world

A business card offers a first impression of you and—by association—your business to potential clients. In fact, they’re one of the most important marketing tools you can have. Therefore, having a unique, professionally crafted business card will make you stand out from the competition. And, if done well, has the potential to make you and your business more memorable.

In the following infographic by printing service X Print, they offer insight into business card etiquette around the world. For example, did you know that in Japan, virtually everyone has their own business card from the time they’re a student onwards?

The infographic also reveals helpful tips on how you can design a good business card, as well as future trends and expert advice. To find out the secret to creating a killer business card and get insight into business card etiquette around the world, check out the infographic below. Or, for other etiquette tips, learn how to properly answer the phone.

Business Cards: Here’s What You Need To Know

  • The typical business card size is 85x55mm in Europe and 3.5×2″ in North America.
  • The world’s most expensive card is “The Black Astrum Signature Card.” A typical set of cards features over 30 carats of diamonds and the average selling price per card is about US$1,500.
  • According to research, sales increase by 2.5% for every 2,000 cards you hand out.
  • Prospects will hold onto a colour card 10 times longer than a standard one.
  • On an annual basis, more than 10 billion business cards are printed in the United States alone.

“If you create a beautiful artefact that is kept rather than thrown away, it will live on… In many cases, people will save a great card even after copying the info—they may even give the card to a friend just to experience it,” says Prescott Perez-Fox, owner of Starship Design.

Business card etiquette around the world

Business cards in Japan are an important part of social interactions, both business and personal. Just about everyone in Japan has their own business card or meishi from the time they are a student. To handover or accept a business card, one should always use both hands.

Tip: Ensure that your title is clearly printed on the card as the Japanese place great importance on rank and title.

In China, it’s preferable to present your own business card before asking for another person’s card. You should hand over your card with both hands and the text facing the other party. When accepting a business card, make sure to take a moment to study the card before putting it away as a measure of courtesy.

Tip: Red is a lucky colour in China and so it can be a good idea to consider red print or embossing it on your card.

United Kingdom & United States
The exchange of business cards in the UK and US is quite informal and there is no predefined ritual. Business cards can be placed directly in your pocket when you receive them if necessary. All business cards should be clearly legible and presentable.

Tip: Business cards aren’t usually used in personal situations here. It’s advisable to only hand out business cards to business contacts or those who present theirs first.

“Two factors regarding your business card strategy are a unique design and engaging delivery. A snazzy card is no good if you hand it out left and right without an exchange of pleasantries and ideas, but poor quality cards can undermine even best rapport or persuasive conversation,” says Josh Spiro of

South Africa
In South Africa it’s advisable to present your business card with your right hand. When exchanged, business cards should be stored away properly rather than put in a pocket. Cards should be in English on one side and your language on the other side.

Tip: A short comment on the card after the exchange takes place is polite and often appreciated by the recipient.

Business cards are usually exchanged at the first introduction without formal ritual. If you’re not given a business card, it’s not considered to be an insult—the person simply may not have one. Similar to US and UK, business card exchanges are usually confined to business interactions as opposed to both business and personal encounters.

Tip: Australians are often direct in their business interactions, so don’t be offended if they don’t take the time to study your card when the exchange takes place.

A tip from Business Know-How is that “if the card feels flimsy or looks like you printed it yourself on a cheap printer, it’ll leave people with the impression they’re dealing with a company that will disappear as soon as the owner finds a real job. Have your business card printed professionally on good heavyweight business card stock.”

3 ways to create an eye-catching business card

  1. Essential information only:
    The main goal of a business card is to make it easy for people to contact you. With that in mind, it’s vital to include only the contact information that is absolutely necessary. Avoid providing a long list of services or every single mailing address if your company has multiple locations.
  2. Be clever with your colour choice:
    A business card provides you with an opportunity to sell your brand. If you have company colours, use them. If not, make sure you choose complimentary colours (when in doubt, use an online colour matching tool).
  3. Add a photo:
    Often cards are exchanged at large networking events and as a result, it can be very easy for people to confuse names and faces. Adding a photo is a clever way to ensure your business contact remembers you.

“An instant way to add impact to your business card, and make it stand out from the crowd, is to use a special finish. Special finishes include the likes of foil blocking, spot-UV and metallic inks, and can add significant cost to your print. What they offer, however, is the opportunity to make your card more tactile, visually impressive and memorable,” according to Creative Bloq.

Business card trends of the future

Visual content
Visual content is more important now than ever and leaving the back of a card blank simply won’t suffice. Use one side of the card to display an image of your product or something related to your business.

QR codes
An easy way to create a link between your printed and online content; by scanning the code, people can be sent directly to your website. This is a great space saver for business cards.

Premium paper/unusual materials
Differentiate your business cards from the others by using premium paper. 350-400gsm will look and feel superior and also give a great first impression of your business. In addition, using unorthodox materials such as metal or fabric can help ensure your business card stands out from the competition.