Multicultural differences in greetings you need to be aware of.
by Susan Dunn
Multiculturalism is a reality both at home and for those of us who do business globally. For those in the UK and other parts of the world worrying about immigration, we should remember that the US has more legal immigrants yearly than all the other countries in the world combined. Also there are vast cultural differences even between "native" Americans living in the US for several generations, as you know if you've done business with a New Yorker (better be quick!) or bi'ness with a Texan (better stand at a 90% angle to your male companion).
Culture is not ethnic or racial. It is learned and of course each culture is different. Treat everyone like a unique individual, as you would like to be treated, don't get hung up on stereotypes, and develop your emotional intelligence so you can be more intuitive about how to communicate with, negotiate with, and provide services and products for people from cultural backgrounds other than your own.
1. In South Texas, if you're talking to a male, they will stand at a 90% angle to you. If you move to reorient, a "dance" will begin. This is a markedly non-intimate position (macho), and often the eyes are cast down at the floor or out across the floor, not at the other party. South Texans generally say "Pleased to know you," while Mid Westerners say, "Pleased to meet you" or "Pleased to make your acquaintance." More from San Antonio, Texas - in a strictly social setting, it's not customary to shake hands with women. In society, there's the haute hug - two women will parody a hug with no part of their body touching, just tapping each other on the back. Often with an older, respected person, or to express affection with respect, you shake hands, then cover their and your hands with your left hand, patting or stroking while maintaining eye contact.
2. Be aware that most of the world does not greet by shaking hands.
3. People from Asian cultures bow in greeting, but the bows are different.
4. Some cultures naturally greet by hugging.
5. Some cultures kiss!
6. Pakistanis (largely Muslims) greet with salaam which is the equivalent of our "hello". The salaam is done by bowing with the palm of the right hand on the forehead. Salaam means "peace" or "Peace be with you."
7. Postures also have meaning. Ready to settle in with your Middle Eastern client? As an American, you're likely most comfortable sitting back in your chair and crossing your legs. Well, don't! In the Middle East, one of the most insulting things you can do is sit with your legs crossed so the bottom of your foot is pointed in the other person's direction. The foot is the dirtiest part of the body and the sole of the shoe is the dirtiest of the low. To show someone the bottom of your foot means you're looking for a fight!
8. Even hand-shaking cultures such as England, France, Germany, Italy and the US do it differently.
9. Bear in mind the other person may be trying to accommodate to your culture, so don't assume they will use their traditional greeting. For example, if you start first, for instance bowing, and then see a hand extended for a shake, and switch to that, the other person will then have switched to a bow and this becomes awkward. For many cultures such "awkwardness" will kill the deal early on.
10. Greetings are critical first moves in relationships. Begin with a polite word or two, such as "Mr. And Mrs. Taekwondo, it's so nice to meet you at last," and then hesitate for a moment to see what they want to do and are comfortable with. Then mirror their gesture, be it bow, hand shake, abrazo (hug) or nothing! Use your intuition! When in doubt, err on the side of conservatism.
(c)Susan Dunn, The EQ Coach,
http://www.susandunn.cc . Individual and executive coaching in emotional intelligence. EQ culture programs for organizations. Distance learning. EQ Alive!- http://www.eqcoach.net - train to coach emotional intelligence, classes start monthly.
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