Dec 2, 2008

Greetings and salutations in the global business

In any culture, among any people, of any race, color, language, religion, there is definitely a way to start communicating while two people reaching each other. And certainly, this is the right time whether or not to begin a successful afterward communication. This is also true in the business world. But, in this one, the task is much more important and complicated, especially when it got globally. There could be no difficulty starting communication with a person of your own family, town, language, country, etc. But imagine, how one businessman should start communication with a person belonged to thousands of miles away, then, to make a successful bargain with him/her?

Definitely, there are considerable differences between the ways people salute with each other, throughout the world—one shakes the hands, one bow, one kisses the hand, one kisses the face, one hugs, etc. what should WE do, before carrying out a transaction with a Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, whoever?

Humans, though, may have been originated from a single point they now have huge differences with each other. These all diversities are imperative, and also essential to build communication in the international arena.

The differences in them could have a million of reasons: weather, history, neighbors, and very much more. Differences always there are; even, despite of all endeavors to establish a global village and remove all cultural barriers to better communicate. Most of the time trying people to understand why they believe in something is an unfruitful task, as they themselves have never asked such questions before. For example, you all know that respecting family, patriarchs, religion, tribe, etc. are unhesitating. But have you ever asked yourself, WHY? Similarly, when you ask an American person, why he/she believes in freedom or individualism, you, most of the time, may not receive a proper feedback.

The scope of these diversities in culture also covers the ways people, around the world, salute with each other, i.e. “say hello”. For example, each country has its own common way of shaking hands. In the United States people shake hand very firmly, but in U.K. very softly. Most of the Asian countries consider hand-shaking very uncomfortable (not recently); on the other hand, Koreans are exception. The Japanese, for instance, though hand-shaking has become common among them, prefers bowing. Arabs hold each other.(1) In Afghanistan we also hold and touch the other person’s cheek with our cheek only once; in Iran, however, it is thrice! Muslim people while dealing with women do not often like shaking hands, but in Western societies that is a common thing.

Being informed about all these is going to certainly arise the necessity that if one would like to start business internationally should understand these problems and make himself/herself ready to deal with them. When I worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as it most of the time deals with foreigners, so sometime it happens to open introduction and speaking with a woman, and sometime a lady. The instruction we were told to follow was, bowing slightly, and rising her hand at the same time, but not too much, and kissing it. Though, it may not acceptable for you reading this, but it is sometime imperative. You never must forget this that, this is YOU who is willing to build a communication, and certainly a successful one, with the other person. Therefore, you have to observe this point.

Another example for my argument could be Taliban. You may all be informed about the competition between Unocal and Bridas for the Afghanistan Pipeline. Bridas representatives met Taliban for first time, in August 1995. The assumption I am certain about it, is, they were already equipped with their adviser’s advises on how to face and greet with Talibs. But, what do YOU think?

(1) R. M. Hodgetss, F. Luthans, and J. P. Doh, International Management (Culture, Strategy, and Behavior), Six Edition, p. 94.

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