Business Card Etiquette

It is doubtful that any kind of etiquette remains in the west when it comes to the presentation of a business card but etiquette in such matters does still exist in Japan. In Japan a business card is known as a meishi (??) and the presentation and treatment of it of it should be carried out in an appropriate manner. The card should be presented by the presenter holding the top two corners of the card, allowing the recipient to be able to view the details on the card. The recipient should then use both hands to receive it, holding both of the bottom two corners, at which time both the presenter and the recipient will bow towards each other. If there are two or more cards being presented at the same time, the lowest ranking or the presenter with the lowest status, should ensure that their card is being presented at a lower height than any other card being presented, affording the recipient the opportunity of knowing which card is perhaps more important. A received business card or meishi must be treated with respect therefore never just be placed randomly in a pocket, it should be placed in a leather case where it cannot become aged or damaged as, if it does, it is a sign of disrespect for the presenter of the card.

Of course, Japan is in the east where, oddly enough, the business card is generally accepted as originating from but in China, not Japan. In 15th century China, the business card first originated as a sort of visiting card and would be provided at the entrance of an establishment in order that it could then be presented to the owner who would decide if entry should be permitted. This is a similar way in which the first business cards were used in Europe during the 17th century but then they were perhaps more used, certainly during LOUIS X1V’s reign in France, as a form of introduction of a man to a lady in a household. This formality followed the rules that one card should be presented for female member of the household and from the card, the females would decide if the man should be permitted entry. If the man received no response after having presented his cards, he was to assume his call was unwelcome.

Those days of strict protocol, at least in the west, are long over and today’s business cards are handed out without any sort of pomp or ceremony, sometimes almost forced upon a person or at least thrust at them with encouragement to accept. The cards did at one time also follow strict guidelines as to what information was placed on them and also how that information was presented however, that too seems to have passed with time as, today, a business card can even be made from a variety of materials and have designs, logos and any other kind of graphics included on it, along with any information that the owner of the card may see fit.