Travelling on business can end up being extremely tiresome if you need to do it very often and that too across time zones and ethnicities. Apart from the sheer physical toll that it takes on travelers, those who visit different countries also need to take care that the cultural divide is bridged appropriately and their counterparts in the foreign countries accept them with grace. Business travelers live in perpetual fear of committing gaffes that could throw a spanner in the works as far as office work is concerned.
The Reasons Why Business Travelers Should Pay Attention to Cultural Gaps?
The worst mistake that people travelling on business can make is to assume that the folks they will be interacting with think, behave, and communicate in the very same way as they do themselves, and that they have a similar approach to conducting business. Regretfully, this is quite far from actual reality. Cultures across the world have their own distinct way of behaving and appreciating things. This starts with apparently simple things like greeting the people being visited, the sort of apparel that is considered appropriate, the language and its delivery, the type of gifts that are acceptable and of course, what and how food is partaken. Unless you do proper research on these aspects, it is quite likely that you will commit a blunder.
Some Common Cultural Gaffes – Body Language
As a typical westerner, you would think nothing of offering your hand for a firm handshake, look the person directly in the eye, and offer him your business card with one hand, but in many cultures, especially, Asian, this could send down very bad vibes as they would expect a gentler and more ceremonial handshake or even a bow with eye contact anything but direct. Business cards too are offered with a bow and with both the hands. You will be expected to exchange pleasantries and establish relationships before getting down to business.
In many Asian countries, the left hand is considered unclean, so eating, greeting and touching should always be with the right hand. It is best not to point and definitely not the done-thing to indicate anything with your leg or feet. Crossing legs is not acceptable in many cultures, especially in Japan, where it is considered very rude. Be careful of using informal expressions such as a “thumbs-up” because people may not be familiar with it and interpret it differently. Backslapping should be completely avoided as it is considered too familiar.
Some Common Cultural Gaffes – Apparel & Dressing
In many Asian countries like India and Thailand as well as Russia, you should take care to remove your shoes before entering your host’s home. It not only helps to maintain cleanliness but indicates that the outside world is being left where it should be. In most Asian and Arab countries it is not appropriate to have your legs exposed, and if you are female, then you need to keep yourself covered up very well. Unless you are sure of the occasion, avoid dressing too casually. In China do not wear white, it’s the color of death, and in Malaysia avoid yellow as it is reserved for the royalty. Dressing for wildlife safaris, however can be quite different – read about what you should do on http://tigersheavenresort.co.in/
Some Common Cultural Gaffes – Food
Food and eating habits are so different in many countries that it is best to take the advice of a friendly local to prevent a serious blooper. Remember while beef is okay, pork is a strict no-no in all Moslem countries and even in many parts of India. The Japanese and the Chinese have elaborate tea drinking ceremonies and you need to keep a sharp eye out as to how it is being conducted. It is best not to speak during a meal, unless your hosts themselves are encouraging it. Eating sparingly is always a good idea but don’t eat so less that your hosts think that you don’t like their food. Alcohol can be a big issue in most countries; in many places you are not expected to consume it while in Russia you can go completely wrong if you refuse a shot of Vodka!
Consequences of Committing Cultural Gaffes
While earlier if you had committed a blooper you would have been really looked down upon, with globalization there is increasingly familiarity with the customs followed in various countries. Small mistakes are easily forgiven but the consequences of your actions that cause the hosts to lose face can be pretty severe. Hence be sure to read up specifically on the customs of each country that you visit and if possible try and be accompanied by a local who will steer you away from severe damage.
Author bio: Isabella Rossellini is a very well-known nature conservationist. An expert on the subject, she travels the world sharing his experiences. You can read more of her articles on http://tigersheavenresort.co.in/