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Business culture in Serbia

The business culture in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia & Herzegovina are changing. Over the past decade the business community has benefited from the presence of many international agencies, foreign investors, and technical assistance programs. This change, most obvious in the largest business and industrial centers, has introduced new management, language, and IT skills, as well as Western-style business practices.

Most of today’s managers are able to communicate in English, and use IT equipment, email, and mobile phones. The exchange of business cards is a common practice. While most business meetings take place in a formal setting, it is not unusual to discuss business over coffee or lunch. An invitation to dinner should never be rejected; it may be a sign of a serious desire to do business.

As is the case in many other countries, local companies prefer to do business with people they know well. Business friendships are highly valued. Establishing a local presence and employing locals signal long-term commitment to the market and is well-received.

The business culture is relatively hierarchical with a lesser extent of delegation of responsibility and authority. In principal, negotiations should therefore not be seen as concluded before a person with evidently recognized authority has approved the deal.

In general for Serbia

In general, normal Western European protocol and norms would be appropriate in Serbia. The turnaround in receiving business responses from companies and other institutions may not be as fast as elsewhere, however, it is not an indicator of disinterest. This is a well-educated and well-informed populace and respect should be shown in all interactions with locals.

The handshake is an acceptable form of greeting.

If invited to dinner, it is advisable that one bring the host or hostess a small gift of appreciation.

Never outright refuse drinks or food when in a Serb's home. Even if you are not hungry take a little food just to make the host happy. If you must refrain from alcohol, request a substitution such as juice or tea.

Dress is comparable to that of Western Europe, taking care to dress appropriately for the climate.