A guest post by Claudia Waitman of Junction International
The world is shrinking. Meanwhile, companies are growing and expanding. However, no matter the size of your business, you’ll likely cross paths with a customer from another culture. To be competitive and one step ahead of the competition, true business professionals need to be culturally savvy.
Not only is it important to be culturally aware when competing for new business and attracting new customers, but it’s also critical within internal business culture at companies – especially when the business is growing into new markets.
A perfect example is India, where people will shake their head side-to-side to indicate that they agree with what you’re saying. This is the opposite of the United States, where people will shake their head side-to-side when disagreeing or to indicate no.
Following are a few more examples of how not only language varies by country and culture, but body language does too:
- Argentina: Even if people do not know each other the usual way to greet is with a kiss on the cheek. However, when people do know each other … they kiss on the cheek and hug. In formal or business occasions, among people that don’t know each other, a hand shake is more common.
- Brazil: In woman-woman and woman-man interactions, the most common way to greet is kissing one another on the cheeks. The number of kisses varies between one and three, depending on the place, but you always start from the right cheek. Hugs are also very common. In more formal contexts, people usually shake hands. All this is often complemented by a smile and “Oi!” or “Olá!” followed by questions to check how the other person is doing.
- France: When people do not know each other, as for a first meeting or for business matters, they shake hands. When people know each other, as between friends, or acquaintances or even colleagues in some cases (equal level, never boss/subordinate), they kiss.
- Japan: When meeting, people bow from the waist with their palms on their thighs and heels together
- Malaysia: Both hands touch the other person’s hands when meeting and are then brought back to the breast. This is referred to as a salame gesture. In Malaysia people also greet each other by saying “Where are you going?” The polite response is “Just for a walk.”
- Philippines: Most commonly, a limp handshake is all that is necessary.
Claudia Waitman, President & CEO of Junction International, has nearly 15 years of industry know-how. Claudia co-founded the company in 2008 and has had first-hand experience in the implementation of translation solutions and multilingual communications strategies for many corporations, large and small, in a variety of industries including marketing, pharmaceutical, healthcare, publishing, software, business, and legal. She has helped businesses and organizations expand their market opportunities and diversify their reach – both in the U.S. and abroad. Originally from Argentina, Claudia graduated as a Certified Public Translator in Spanish.
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