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Getting to grips with international culture

Written by on 13th September 2013
Category: Business Travel

Unlike leisure travel, whereby the pre-travel ritual may be the gym, a few sunbed sessions and a wax, a business traveller needs to be more prepared. So how do business travellers prepare for relocation to a new country?

Differences in dress, food, gesture and body language are all things to consider when travelling and actions really do speak a thousand words. Getting to grips with traditions and customs will earn you respect from the locals. For example, don’t give someone a thumbs up in Saudi Arabia and if you nod to a Bulgarian you are actually disagreeing, not agreeing. Similarly, don’t be too upset if someone in Greece spits at you three times. Greeks believe this wards off the devil and bad luck, so they might actually be doing you a favour.

It’s always best to consider how to greet strangers in new cities. Do you stick with one kiss on the cheek or go for two, or even three as is common in continental Europe? At least you won’t need to worry about the practicality of rubbing noses together, unless you’re in New Zealand of course. Or perhaps you agree with SilverDoor’s Commercial Director, Chris Gee, who believes it’s always best to play it safe with a good old fashioned handshake.

SilverDoor’s International Partner Relations Manager, Paddy Hegan, shares his top five social and professional integration tips to make relocation a bit easier.

1.       In the Far East and the Indian Subcontinent always accept a business card face up, with both hands and study it intently before, respectfully, putting it somewhere safe.

2.       Beware, before you dine in China, they believe that you are questioning their generosity if you finish a meal. Remember the HSBC advert?

3.       In Japan, greet someone by bowing from the waist; the degree to which you bow reflects how important the person is, as does how long you bow for. Additionally, during a business meeting in Japan, a silence is not an awkward pause; silence means a person is thinking and it’s rude to interrupt them.

4.       Do not write, eat or shake anyone’s hand with your left hand, in the Middle East, as it is for bathroom purposes only. Additionally, it’s considered highly offensive to have the soles of your shoes directed towards someone, so be careful how you sit.

5.       In The West a firm hand shake shows confidence. In the Far East, however, this is considered aggressive and a gentler handshake is preferred.