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Multicultural Etiquette: Greetings and Smiles

This week CSS wraps up our series on multicultural etiquette with a few final tips on how to navigate an increasingly international global marketplace.

Greetings: Before traveling to another country or conducting business with a company from another culture, be aware of the most common form of greeting. Some cultures greet one another with a slight bow at the waist with no physical contact, while in others a handshake combined with a kiss on the cheek is customary. With the rise of international business, many cultures now expect the Americanized handshake, so it is often a safe bet. However, some cultures and religions frown upon physical contact between opposite sexes; if you find yourself in a situation in which you proffer your hand and it is declined, politely accept, apologize, and move on.

Smiling: Although a smile may seem like the most straightforward of all types of communication, in reality smiling is used in different ways in different cultures. For example, in some East Asian cultures, people offer a smile when embarrassed or confused. In Japanese culture, a smile is often considered a sign of frivolity, so smiling is avoided in important situations, so it is not thought that the individual is not taking the occasion seriously. When dealing with individuals from another culture, make sure you understand the possible reasons that they may or may not offer a smile in order to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. In addition, be aware that your friendly smile may hold more meaning for your conversation partner than you realize.

Titles: How one addresses one’s colleagues can vary from culture to culture. As a general rule, never address someone by their first name until invited to do so—in some cultures this can be considered disrespectful. In other cultures, specific titles are used. In America, it is common to address someone as “Doctor Smith” or “Professor Jones,” but our use of title typically stops there. In other countries, for example, Mexico, titles are used more frequently and for a wider variety of positions, for example Engineer, Architect, or even Licenciado (licensed one), a term used for anyone holding a college degree.

Join us next week for more great advice on good speech, voice, and communication habits in the workplace! In the meantime, visit us at www.corporatespeechsolutions.com and check out our new and improved website!

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