Negotiation Practices and Etiquette in Armenia
The former Soviet Republic of Armenia has a few interesting details in its etiquette and negotiation practices into how things are achieved in that country. For tourists and for those visiting the country on business it is always advisable to know these details before you arrive to save yourself or your hosts any possible embarrassment.
When dining in a restaurant your bill will include a service charge of between eight and ten per cent, this is not a tip. Your waiter or waitress will not see any of this addition to the bill, it is something the restaurants in the capital city of Yerevan have in recent years added to the bill. If you look closely at your menu you may see a small mention of this extra charge. For tipping the waiting staff it is usually ten or fifteen per cent on larger bills and anything below the equivalent of US$10 should be rounded up to that amount.
Once you have finished dining you will have to ask for your bill, it is not the practice in Armenia to assume you have finished and bring you your bill. It is not bad service, in the country it is considered impolite to present you with your bill unless you have requested it. It is looked on as the restaurant asking you to leave, so even if you are asked if you would like anything else and you say no unless you ask for the bill you will not be presented with it.
Armenians are generally poor people but they show great respect for foreigners and whenever possible they will help visitors to their country through hospitality and kindness. Many people will arrive into the city from the surrounding farms and sell the produce they grew themselves at the markets, it is not customary to haggle over the price as these people struggle to make a living.
If you are invited into an Armenians home you will be offered coffee, tea, vodka or even a place to stay for the night. They are genuinely curious to know about you and your way of life. They are interested to know the cost of your clothes, about your family, and whether you are single or married. If you are invited to a party you should try the locally made vodka, it has a reputation for curing any complaints. You should also be aware of the strength of this drink as these parties can last for many hours and feature continual toasting.
Business conducted in Armenia is usually completed in a conservative manner, dark coloured suit and tie for the men and a high quality business suit with a skirt of at least knee length for women, again in dark colours. Armenians place a high value on being well dressed and will not accept casual wear for business meetings.
Your Armenian host will introduce you first to the remainder of those at the meeting rather than you introduce yourself. You should arrive punctually for any scheduled meetings although it is customary for your host to keep you waiting. Interruptions during the meeting are the norm so you should not be offended by this. Fill in any spaces in the meeting with small talk, Armenians are keen to know about sports, history, food or even the weather. Do not talk about politics or religion. The business protocol is to allow your host to begin and end the conversation. Bargaining for a business deal is acceptable but you should be wary of saying ‘no.’ They can become sensitive to such directness and careful negotiation may be necessary.
It is usual to give your host a small, wrapped gift. Office type gifts are considered to be the best choices such as pen sets or paper weights. If you have branded materials of your company these are acceptable and good reminders of who you are to your hosts. If you are given a gift you should not open it until you have departed from the meeting.