Surprising Phone Etiquettes from Around the World

woman talking by telephone while working with laptop in office
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Every country has its own set of social norms. What’s acceptable in one may be considered taboo in another. For example, sipping your soup noisily in the U.S. may be rude, but it’s actually a sign of respect in Japan. Now, you might be surprised to learn that the phone etiquettes you’ve always known may not hold merit in other nations.


If you come from the western part of the world, like the U.S., Canada, or Europe, you might think that answering your mobile phone while in a meeting is rude. In fact, a lot of people switch their phones to silent mode if they’re busy attending a meeting. Some even leave their phones in their offices before heading to the conference room.

But if you’re in a meeting in China and all of the people in attendance are Chinese, then you’ll be in for a surprise. Chinese people will answer their phones even if they’re in a business meeting because for them, it’s not rude.

Although, some say that that kind of behavior is exclusive to Chinese people with high ranks in companies. According to those who have worked with Chinese businessmen, lower-ranking people would answer their phones, too, but they would either leave the room or cup their mouths to minimize the noise.


The history of Russia plays a big part in how people use their phones. If you happen to be in Russia and try to call up someone, don’t be surprised if the person doesn’t immediately answer your call or speak right away. It’s because some Russians are still suspecting that someone might be listening to their phones.

The KGB, which was Russia’s largest security agency, was suspected to have been listening in to civilians’ phone calls. That allegation was never confirmed, but it didn’t stop most Russians from believing that Kremlin was eavesdropping into their calls.


Now, calling someone in Egypt is like a breath of fresh air after Russia because Egyptians are cordial when it comes to phone etiquette. Here, get used to the fact that you’ll spend the first two minutes exchanging pleasantries and asking about each other’s personal well-being.

Most people here don’t go straight to discussing what their business is with you. So, if you’re operating a call center company in Cairo, for instance, you’re going to see your Xorcom IP phones spending more time per customer because your callers are probably still chatting with your customer representatives about their food choices.

United Kingdom

man taking in phone

The British are renowned for their strict adherence to proper decorum, which is why you should be careful calling someone in the UK. While most countries are a bit lenient when it comes to receiving calls late in the evening, it’s a different case in the UK.

Here, if you call someone past 9 p.m., you’ll either be forwarded to their voicemail or an angry Englishman will instruct you on proper phone manners. Also, most Britons set their voicemail to activate after the phone has rung 10 times.

So, if you’re going to call someone from these countries, try to remember the proper phone etiquette for each nation. Some may be weird, others may be annoying, but that’s how some people behave in their own country. It’s your responsibility to adhere to their etiquettes.

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