Business Networking in Europe

It’s summer, and you may be heading for various points of Europe for your holidays — soaking up the Mediterranean sunshine, exploring the fjords of Scandinavia or marvelling at the history and culture in dozens of cities across the continent.

You’ll probably be doing your best to forget all about your business for the week or fortnight you’re away. Still, habit is hard to break, and questions may cross your mind about how business is done in country you’re visiting. In particular, if you belong to any business networking groups (and if you don’t, then why not?) you might be wondering whether this is also common on mainland Europe.

Chambers of Commerce

Possibly the oldest business networking type is the chamber of commerce, and this is as widespread across Europe as in the UK. Indeed, what’s normally credited as the first-ever chamber was founded in 1599 in Marseille, followed a few decades later by one in Bruges.

Continental chambers, though, aren’t quite the same as the ones we know. In most parts of the EU, with the notable exception of Scandinavia, chambers have statutory status, and membership is compulsory for businesses above a certain size. Broadly, though, European chambers offer similar services to those in the UK, including their networking functions.

Networking Groups

Besides major trade bodies like chambers of commerce, though, what else is available? Does Europe have equivalents of 4Networking, BNI or Business Buzz?

This varies a good deal by country. France, Spain and Italy, for instance, seem just as keen on business networking as the UK, while opportunities are a little thinner on the ground in Germany. Even so, there are networking groups in countries all over the EU that would feel familiar to British members of 4Networking or BNI — assuming, of course, that you speak the language.

Some of these are also familiar organisations. BNI, for instance, has franchises in most EU countries, while there are Rotary Clubs in cities all across Europe, from Paris to Prague, Helsinki to Nicosia. There are also plenty of more local organisations, both for businesses generally and more specific, such as women’s groups. These can be easily enough found by googling “business networking groups X” for the particular city.

Joining In

You shouldn’t be interested in business networking while you’re relaxing on holiday, but what if you decide later to try doing business in your holiday location? You’ll certainly need to learn the local language (although some groups exist specifically for expats) but you should find the same opportunities for networking across Europe as here. It would certainly help your overseas business.



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