What businesswomen should wear when doing business in asia

What Businesswomen Should Wear When Doing Business in Asia

If you’ve ever done business in Asia, you’ll probably agree with me when I say that language barriers and cultural barriers can easily make you feel out of place. This is inevitable. But you don’t have to necessarily look out of place, if you have the right training and advice.

Today I want to share with a list of staple items you should definitely pack in your suitcase if you’re a businesswoman going on a trip to an Asian country. This advice is primarily drawn from my experience in Japan, but I’ve found these tips can also make for a smoother business trip to other Asian cultures, too.

Modest Closed-Toed Heels in Black or Navy

You’ll probably be doing a lot of walking, so make sure you pack a pair of conservative, closed-toed shoes to wear to business meetings and other functions. I’d like to emphasise “closed-toed” heels, and yes, even in summer. Showing your toes in many Asian business cultures is considered poor taste. Aim for a heel that is about 2.5 inches high. You should be able to comfortably and confidently walk in your heels.

Stockings or Stocking Socks

You may be tempted to go without stockings or stocking socks if you’re wearing closed-toed shoes. But believe me, this is the worst mistake you could make. Why? If you’re invited to a restaurant, you may be required to take your shoes off at the entrance. If you don’t have stockings or socks to cover your feet, you won’t make a good impression showing your bare toes. Stockings or socks are a must at all times when doing business in Asia.

what women should wear when doing business in asia

Image courtesy of MiriamPastor/Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence. No changes have been made to this image.

Skirt Suit or Pant Suit in Charcoal, Navy or Black

It’s acceptable to wear either a pant suit or a skirt suit when doing business in Asia. The choice really depends on what you feel more comfortable and confident wearing. If you feel more comfortable and confident in a pant suit, then wear that. If you feel more elegant and confident in a skirt suit, that is fine, too. As for the colour of your suit, you can’t go wrong with a darker colour such as charcoal, navy, or black.

Tasteful Knee-length Skirt

Business attire in many Asian countries is very conservative. That means if you choose to wear a skirt to business functions, the length of your skirt should be modest. Aim for a skirt that sits just above your knee. Keep in mind though, when you sit down, your skirt will ride up. So make sure the length of your skirt when you’re sitting down is not too short either.

Elegant Buttoned Shirt in White, Light Blue, or Light Pink

Since your suit will be in a darker colour, you can add contrast to your look with a lighter coloured shirt. Personally, I love a crisp white shirt that has unique buttons or subtle feminine detail tailored into it. You can also try a light pink, light blue, or light green business shirt. When you try your shirt on, check for gaps in between the buttons just in case you’re showing some extra skin.

Small Hand Towel

When I lived in Japan, I found that every woman carries a small hand towel in their handbag. At first I didn’t really understand the purpose of this, until the day I decided to try this practice out myself. It’s immensely convenient. When there’s no paper to dry your hands in the restroom, you can use your hand towel. If you’re in a warmer climate and you find yourself perspiring, use your hand towel to remove perspiration from your face.

Travel tip: (Click to Tweet) Always wear stockings or stocking socks when travelling to Asia on business. You may be required to take off your shoes before you enter a restaurant.

what women should wear when doing business in asia

Image courtesy of SpinsterCardigan/Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence. No changes have been made to this image.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s tips and advice on business attire for women travelling to an Asian country. Next week I’ll write about the same topic, but tailored for men.

If you want to further your reading, I invite you to take a look at a previous post, “4 Professional Dress Mistakes When Doing Business Internationally”.

And, if you loved the tips in this article and you want to have access to these tips and more, then I invite you to become a member of the Executive Impressions community. Simply enter your name and e-mail address in the boxes below.

Header image courtesy of Schwarzkaefer/Flickr.com under Creative Commons licence. Graphics added to this image by Kara Ronin.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is an international business etiquette expert and founder of Executive Impressions. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider India, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Daily Muse, Women 2.0, and more. Kara offers corporate seminars and online training programs on business etiquette, leadership skills, and executive communication around the world. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox