Papua New Guinea Culture of Business

By | July 24, 2022


  • Introduction
  • Addressing
  • Business Meeting
  • Communication
  • Recommendations
  • Public holidays


Papua New Guinea is a culturally very distinctive island, part of the wider cultural circle of Melanesia and has close ties to Australia and Great Britain, not only as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but also because these former colonial powers shaped the country’s political and economic system. PNG is ranked among imperfect democracies (Global Democracy Index 2020). It is characterized by large urban-rural disparities, rudimentary infrastructure (no road connection from the capital, availability of electricity one of the worst outside of Africa), but also a self-confident population accustomed to free expression (including the media) and without the feeling of inferiority of the colonial era. The meeting culture here is open and informal, closer in style to Australia than Asia. The educated classes speak good English.


Addressing partners follows customs from the Anglophone world, Mr. and Mrs., possibly with the function, Mr. Director/Chairman. As an expression of respect, it is possible to use Sir/Madam without using the surname (eg Yes, Sir). PNG maintains the British peerage system, so eg Sir Mekere Morauta is so titled because he was knighted. When addressing academic titles, Dr. is used. or Prof. not bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Members of Parliament are addressed as Honorable XY, judges Justice XY.

Business meeting

Business meetings do not have an established formal protocol, the first one usually takes place in the company’s working premises, but others can also be in a restaurant, either as a working lunch or dinner (not breakfast). Business cards are fine. Melanesian culture is based on the exchange of gifts and attention, it is mainly a gesture, the nature and value of the gift is less important. Symbolism is appreciated, so for example something connected with the Czech Republic. It is not appropriate to start with a gift at the first meeting, but in the further course of the meeting. Reciprocity must be expected and observed, an unrequited gift is considered a social failure. Paying for lunch is also part of this culture of reciprocal exchanges, and it is therefore appropriate to make a proposal, if the other party makes it, to accept it and to return it at the next opportunity.

  • Programingplease: Yearbook 2010 of nation Papua New Guinea, including population, politics, and abbreviations.

Punctuality is not a strong point of the people of PNG, late arrival should not be interpreted negatively as lack of interest, but accepted as a fact. During negotiations, the Czech businessman will be most surprised by the great variety of life experiences of PNG business partners, from experienced international businessmen to entrepreneurs with very peculiar ideas about the functioning of foreign companies and business acquired in the village.

PNG traders are often very adept socially and rhetorically, as success in PNG is based on people skills. It is customary to maintain extensive networks of acquaintances and social contacts and to deal with them in a sophisticated manner, generally more so than in the Czech Republic.

Culturally, otherwise, business negotiations are surprisingly close to the “Czech style”. Friendly openness is appreciated rather than fussy formality. Humor is not only acceptable, but desirable. A Švejkov-type story from Europe is exactly what is needed. However, it is necessary to avoid jokes about religion and also anything that could give the impression of European “colonial” arrogance. On the contrary, a small effort to learn local customs – learning a few Tok Pisin words (greeting, etc.), smoking a local cigarette (Spear) or chewing a betel nut on an appropriate occasion – will break the ice. If a PNG trader wants to reject a proposal, they usually do so directly (avoiding the Asian problem of saying no being a loss of face).

PNG traders are generous with time. Negotiations can be long, unhurried, priority is given to gradually building social relations, getting to know a partner. Late starts and ends are the norm. At the same time, negotiation is always an exercise in social psychology, and emotions are an integral part of it. Be prepared for this, PNG is full of skilled negotiators. It is good to keep track of where reality ends and fantasy begins during negotiations.

In terms of territorial differences, a fundamental difference is evident between the populations from the New Guinea Highlands and the rest of the country, i.e. the lowlands and surrounding islands. People from Vysočina are active, straightforward, competitive to the point of aggressiveness. Lowland people are more reserved, introverted and cautious.

It is not appropriate to offer alcohol at a formal business meeting in the office, yes, at a working dinner or lunch. Part of the population abstains for religious reasons (Seventh-day Adventists, etc.), so repeated insistence after refusing the offer is not appropriate.

It is advisable to choose formal or less formal clothing for work meetings. At least long trousers with a shirt, possibly a jacket and a tie. In any case, no shorts or a T-shirt, nor “Vietnamese” sandals – these are not even allowed in hotel restaurants.

Regarding the composition of the negotiating team, it should be taken into account that PNG is still a strongly masculine culture. Women can be present at the meeting and actively participate in it, however, if the negotiating team is led by a man, it will make the situation easier. Likewise, it is appropriate for the leader to be someone middle-aged or older. The number of team members is not taken as an important signal, it can be adjusted to actual needs.

At a more advanced stage of negotiations, you can expect to be invited home. An invitation to a town hall does not differ much from an invitation in the Czech Republic. As for “home” in the village, it is a sign of successful progress in negotiations, and at the same time, it is an experience very unlike anything in business life in the Czech Republic. The invitation should definitely be accepted, but it is advisable to ask about the details of the visit regarding equipment, clothing, travel, etc. It could be anything from landing a single-engine Cessna in the middle of the forest. Outdoor clothing and lots of small gifts for children and adults (cigarettes, candies, chewing gum, crayons, etc.) are appropriate, as such a visit becomes a matter for the whole village, not just one family.


The usual form of communication is email, but personal and telephone contact is still preferred. Practically everyone with secondary and higher education has a very good command of English, knowledge of other languages ​​(German, French) is rare. An interpreter is not needed unless the meeting involves wider village collectives, where many people only understand Tok Pisin. The majority of the population speaks one or more of the 850 local languages ​​- this can be used in negotiations as a secret communication language that the other party does not understand, similar to Czech on the part of Czech businessmen. Communication taboos include, for example, the history of cannibalism, criticism of Christianity or the view of traditional culture as primitive.


PNG is an ideal country to do business for traders looking for new opportunities and undeveloped markets, while not afraid of a bit of adventure. PNG is a slightly wild country within the law. There is a lot of untapped opportunity here, as the country’s reputation as difficult and dangerous keeps many entrepreneurs from flocking to it. This may prove to be a mistake, the safety and health risks are often greatly, if not completely, exaggerated. Therefore, the technical and financial capabilities of the partner must always be checked – also because PNG is a small country with a small market and often standards that would be lacking in larger countries will pass.

Public Holidays

New Year’s Day, Easter – Good Friday + Easter Sunday, Queen’s Birthday (June 14), National Remembrance Day (July 23), Repentance Day (August 26), Independence Day (September 16), Christmas – Christmas Day ( December 25) + Boxing Day (December 26) – Christmas, Easter and New Year have a similar character in PNG as in the Czech Republic. – Queen’s Birthday is a holiday celebrated on a different day than the Queen’s Birthday in Great Britain (although it is the same Queen) and does not correspond to the actual birthday of the monarch. It is the day when state honors are awarded. – National Remembrance Day is a reverent remembrance of war victims, especially from the 2nd St. war when PNG (still a colony) fought on the side of Australia against Japan, which occupied the north of the country. – Independence Day is the biggest holiday of the year, celebrating independence in 1975, including a series of spectacular cultural festivals, which can definitely be recommended. PNG flags are flying everywhere and there is a mood of real optimism and enthusiasm in the country that we have not seen in Europe for a long time on similar occasions.

Papua New Guinea Culture of Business