International Real Estate Advisor /Investment Analysis & business Coach
America is a melting pot, thus anyone born or has been living in the U.S. for some time adopts its style and ways of conducting business, thinking that American etiquette will work when dealing with other cultures. In some cases, this attitude may turn into “Parochialism” which means, viewing the world solely through one’s own eyes and perspective. This attitude seldom offers opportunities, rather it creates serious consequences.
This article highlights some of the world cultures that anyone working with global clients should be aware of. Understanding and respecting the fundamentals of each is crucial to the success of the transaction and the relationship building. So, let’s explore a few ways!
Before proceeding with any relationship building, whether in Riad, Frankfurt, or New Delhi, consider which behaviors and topics can be construed as rude, controversial, or even illegal in your client‘s host country. Your goal as a professional, from the moment you make contact, is to establish credibility and progressively build it throughout your dealings.
Since intercultural communication issues differ around the world, here are some tips one can use to avoid some of the most appalling errors from the moment you attempt to build rapport.
In countries such as Germany, France, Austria, Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands, business is a serious matter and any professional should treat it as such. In these cultures, humor or physical affection are considered as a frivolous waste of time while conducting business. Recently, one Miami real estate agent shot herself on the foot when she met with me and my European client discussing a commercial project; casual dress, regular local greeting style, and lack of seriousness while explaining the details of the project. The client was not impressed and although the project was appealing, he was turned off right away.
In countries like China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, your best bet is to offer a brief bow of the head and a reasonable handshake. Unlike in America where a firm grip has long been a meter of strength of character, in most of Asia, it is not considered as such. A gentle and reasonable shake will do it.
3. Avoid sensitive topics and images: even if your client starts a conversation asking you about your views on certain political topics, I suggest you change subject immediately and talk about something else. Otherwise, he may not like what you have to say and you may lose that client for good. In countries like China or the Middle East, websites are banned for politically incorrect content.
Images of Buddha and animals are of extreme importance in many Asian countries. In Sri Lanka for example, many travelers have been turned away due to tattoos of Buddha. The care and love of animals may be popular in the US, but not everywhere in the world. Understanding how every culture deals with animals can save you a lot of embarrassments and grief.
Non verbal communication is also extremely important in much of the world; pointing your fingers in the air, wracking your right hand into your left palm, or facing your shoe bottom towards the person’s face can kill your negotiations a lot faster than your words.
If anyone has an interest in working with people of different cultures, countries, and religions, the best advice I can give them is to inquire about the local protocol and business practice before engaging in any type of communication or negotiations. This “must do” homework will help you avoid an embarrassing Faux Pas that will prevent you from earning trust and business.