It’s a very valid question and an obvious one from someone working in an international environment. We want simple and short answers and solutions to the problems we face.
However… Do’s and Don’ts and Business Etiquette questions are really the most difficult ones to answer.
Why are Do’s and Don’ts Difficult to Answer?
Do’s and Don’ts are very contextual, and so is almost every business etiquette. Meaning that one particular Do will be very effective and acceptable in one situation (with the same “cultural players” present), while it can turn into a complete Don’t and unacceptable in another situation (with the same “cultural players” present). The same holds true for a Don’t turning into a Do when the context changes. So it works or does not work both ways.
Imagine the following setting: A European learns “how to do Business with Japanese” on a particular cultural awareness training. Amongst the things he/she learns is how to greet his/her Japanese counterpart in the traditional Japanese way and how to accept his business card. He/she learns that a deep respectful bow is the “Do” to do and accepting the Japanese business card the traditional Japanese way. He/she also learns how to present a business card “Japanese style“: presenting it in a way that it can be read immediately without flipping it around (yet another Do).
On the other side, “our” Japanese counterpart goes to a cultural awareness training on how to deal with Europeans. He learns that bowing is not the way to greet someone, but shaking hands is (in this case the European Do). In addition, he is told that dealing with business cards is not a big thing in Europe, that business cards function more like a piece of information for future reference and that they do not carry the same weight as they do in Japan.
When our Japanese and European finally meet, simultaneously the Japanese sticks out his hand whilst the European bows forward. The result: the European gets a hand in his/her face while bowing. Nice… (creating yet another cultural problem: how to apologize!)
Of course, this is an exaggerated example, but hopefully, you understand what I mean with Do’s and Don’ts changing in different contexts and circumstances back and forth.
Within a Japanese context bowing is a Do. In a European context shaking hands is a Do. But since the context has changed (a mix of European and Japanese Do’s and Don’ts) it is not always clear what to Do or to Don’t.
My advice is to not always go with the Do’s and Don’ts that you might have learned from another culture but to take a more adaptive approach. And if there are things you’re not sure about or do not understand, it never hurts to ask the other party if he/she can explain what is happening or what needs to be done within the given context.
An excellent book on this subject, that I can fully recommend is Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands There are several specific “versions” of this book available. I suggest you browse around Amazon and take your pick!
Personal Space & Hygiene
Here it gets a bit tricky because it could be interpreted as being too personal. So let’s keep it general.
- Personal Space: Cultures that are relatively Individualistic, tend to “value” their personal space more than more collectivistic cultures.
- Personal Hygiene: Cultures that are more Individualistic buy and use more deodorant and shampoo. You can interpret this as that Individualistic cultures are not comfortable with smelling each other’s body odors. Individualistic cultures also spend much more money on general hair care products, skincare products, and other personal hygiene-related items.
If you per se must see some do’s and don’ts and a business etiquette here and there, click here. It’s a large Infographic.
An article on international business etiquette can be found here.
Here are 4 ideas you can use directly to up-your business etiquettes.
An infographic on international business etiquettes can be found here.
Please Share Your Own Experience Below
Get a Taste of How Chris Presents, Watch his TEDx Talk
Call Direct: +32476524957
European Office (Paris) Whatsapp: +32476524957
The Americas (USA; Atlanta, GA; también en Español): +1 678 301 8369
Book Chris Smit as a Speaker
If you're looking for an Engaging, Exciting, and Interactive speaker on the subject of Intercultural Management & Awareness you came to the right place.
Chris has spoken at hundreds of events and to thousands of people on the subject of Cultural Diversity & Cultural Competence.
This is What Others Say About Chris:
- “Very Interactive and Engaging”
- “In little time he knew how to get the audience inspired and connected to his story”
- “His ability to make large groups of participants quickly and adequately aware of the huge impact of cultural differences is excellent”
- “Chris is a dedicated and inspirational professional”
In addition, his presentations can cover specific topics cultural topics, or generally on Cultural differences.
Presentations can vary anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours and are given World Wide.
Book Chris now by simply sending an email. Click here to do so.
Read more about what Chris can do for you.
- Percentage of People Rating a Presentation as Excellent 86% 86%
- Rating the Presentation as Practical 89% 89%
- Applicability of Chris' presentation 90% 90%
About Peter van der Lende
Peter has joined forces with Culture Matters.
Because he has years and years of international business development experience joining forces therefore only seemed logical.
Being born and raised in the Netherlands, he has lived in more than 9 countries of which most were in Latin America.
He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia (USA) with his family.
You can find out more at https://expand360.com/
Or find out what Peter can do for you here.