Connect With Your Foreign Leads

You are publishing your listings worldwide through ListGlobally network of real estate portals? Well done!

Now you will receive leads from foreign buyers and you will interact with people from different cultures, but are you prepared to conduct business with your foreign lead? Cultural differences need to be bridged in email and phone conversations just as much as they do in person.

Research local customs before doing business in a different country.

We’ve gathered a few tips about phone and email business etiquette around the world – the two ways that agents first reach out when they qualify a foreign lead. Besides, learning about international business practices is interesting!

Real estate practices vary from country to country. The National Association of Realtors has put together a comprehensive guideline document and here are some highlights about restrictions on foreign buyers in some countries:

Email Etiquette

In today’s global marketplace it is important to develop effective cross-cultural email etiquette. Here are four considerations to keep in mind when emailing leads from other cultures.

1.    Show Global Style

When writing for a global audience, your writing style should be practical and in standard language. Focus on general business terms, rather than specialist vocabulary or jargon. Avoid idioms, phrasal verbs, slang and references to events or attitudes that are specific to one country.

An English translation on the box of a German-produced armchair: “Chair stuffed with arms.”

We caution you against using humor and irony, as these are easily misunderstood outside their cultural context.

2.    Set the Standard

Global format standards can differ. Review the format of dates, times, numbers, symbols and units of measurement and be sure to specify time zones in your email.

In France, 12.10.2020 is the 12th of October, 2020 but it is the 10th of December, 2020 in the USA.

Write out month names and try to be as clear as you can in your message. Global EDGE provides a good place to find information about accepted conventions for numbers and symbols and other international standards.

3.    Be in the Zone

Due to a potential wide variance in time zones, work and sleep hours often occur simultaneously for both parties. A great tactic is to acknowledge the receipt of an important email from overseas, even if you need more time to complete the request.

On the last weekend of October, Europe goes back to 'Winter Time'!

The recipient will appreciate that you recognized his correspondence as you both rock back and forth between time zones.

4.    Cultural Context

In some cultures, direct and concise writing may be seen as efficient and considerate, while in other cultures, it could come across as curt or impersonal.

In a low-context culture, such as the US, England and Germany, recipients value directness and want to get down to business on email rather than exchange pleasantries. A high-context culture, (China, India, Japan, Middle East, Spain) values detail and respects the relationship of conducting business.

*Read more on Edward T. Hall’s distinction between low-context and high-context cultures.

When emailing international readers, consider their cultural preferences to help you establish a relationship of professionalism and respect.

For more tips on corresponding with international buyers, check out this ListGlobally video.

Phone Etiquette

Sometimes agents are unaware that the style and tone of their conversation can be viewed as off-putting or even offensive to their international lead.

Here are some interesting tips that will help you navigate the multi-cultural pitfalls of talking to a lead in a foreign country.

 Talking Points by Country


Business in Australia is often on the casual side, so try not to be too formal on client calls.  Business relationships can have a social aspect, so don’t expect the conversation to be purely focused on business. Be bold, as your views will be respected even if they are not the same opinion as the client. Don’t schedule calls that may run over the afternoon work hours. Australians value a work-life balance.


Brazilian culture is lively and expressive so expect some informal chatting before getting into any type of serious discussion. Brazilians will often make gentle murmurs during a business call to show they can still hear you, a habit originating from the early days of unreliable phone lines. Expect to be asked who you are – even if the call has been arranged beforehand.


In China, it is always acceptable to answer your phone – even in meetings. Do not ignore a call as it is common in China to ring repeatedly if the phone is not answered.


For small matters, don’t pick up the phone at all – French people prefer a quick email or an SMS unless the matter is very important. Most French businesspeople will understand and speak English. Do feel free to interrupt occasionally as this is a common conversational style and will be viewed as enthusiasm.


Try to build a personal relationship with your Italian leads. Personability and trust are vital elements of an Italian business deal. Do not leave a long voicemail, just a message informing them when you’ll ring back.


In Japanese culture, it is considered extremely rude to answer a phone call in a public place so make sure you schedule calls for times when you are both in the office. Group consensus and a strict sense of seniority are prevalent in Japanese business culture. A “yes” from a Japanese client may mean “maybe” or is even a polite way of saying “no.”


Be persistent. It is normal to try to call multiple times. If you give up too easily it may seem like you were not interested enough to begin with.


Call your Portuguese leads before emailing them. Be informal at the first encounter but refrain from asking personal questions. Send a follow-up letter after a business call which includes the key points to ensure an effective meeting and follow up with another call to personalize the message.


Be prepared for a lengthy call, as Spanish people are prone to chatting. Answer with ‘Digame’ rather than ‘Hola’ on a business call.


Never call before 9 am or after 8 pm and always present yourself before you ask for the person with whom you would like to speak. The Swiss are famous for their punctuality, so calling later than you say you will, or being unprepared for the call will be viewed as unfavorable.

United Kingdom

Politeness and manners are important in UK society, so expect plenty of niceties and informal conversation before getting down to business over the phone. Being punctual is important in the UK and never eat while you are on the phone. Expect plenty of small talk and a loosely followed agenda.

  United States of America

Americans are direct and conduct business in an informal style on the phone. The best deal will almost always prevail. Be straightforward in your phone negotiations and expect a literal interpretation - there’s usually little subtext. Decisions are made at a fast pace and Americans are comfortable with conducting deals without face to face meetings.

Following a country's business etiquette is not only good manners – it's good business!

Get International

The global community continues to expand and strengthen. Don’t be left behind!  Promote your properties worldwide through ListGlobally’s international network of real estate portals.

More About ListGLobally

ListGlobally is the largest network of real estate portals in the world. We publish listings from 100,000 agents worldwide and distribute them on 100 real estate portals in more than 60 countries.

Our company is based in Switzerland and since 2012, we have been helping real estate professionals around the world to connect with international buyers. ListGlobally ensures that their listings are visible in the country of origin of potential buyers and translated into 25 different languages.


Subscribe to the Newsletter

Recent blog post

  • Jun 23, 2023 4:40:37 PM |
  • Shanna Mawer

United States real estate market update

  • May 15, 2023 3:29:16 PM |
  • Shanna Mawer

How to win an exclusive mandate 

  • Apr 21, 2023 3:32:43 PM |
  • Shanna Mawer

How to turn a renter into a buyer