Dr. I v a n Misner
C R E D I T
Networking Etiquette Around The World: How Not To Embarrass Yourself When Networking In Another Country
e now live in a fully global society, where it's imperative to have an awareness of cultural differences as they relate to networking etiquette. We often notice differences within our own states, and certainly between regions of the nation; but what
about businesses that are networking with
businesses in other parts of the world? Differences in culture can become stumbling blocks to developing a strong relationship—which is, after all, the ultimate goal of networking. It becomes very easy for a "them" vs. "us" situation to develop, and to focus on the differences as problems that'll hinder working together. It's important to fmd things that bring you together—things that are similar for us all. For example, we all speak the language of referrals, and we all want to do business based on trust. This transcends many cultural differences. That said, we should be aware and prepared for some of these particular cultural differences that can affect the way we network with other cultures. These can be as simple as the way we hand out a business card, to as complex as how close we stand to one another and the usage of specific idioms. Networking in today's market takes finesse and knowledge of the culture in which you're networking. Here are three areas where cultural differences mandate a closer look at networking etiquette:
The business card means much more in the Asian culture than it does here in America; it's truly an extension of the individual and is treated with respect. Things like tucking it into a pocket after receiving it, writing on it, bending or folding it in any way or even looking at it again after you've first accepted it and looked at it, aren't considered polite and can insult your fellow Asian networker.
Use Of Slang
When using slang in a business environment, you might want to keep in mind that what means one thing to us might have no meaning, or a very different meaning, to a businessperson fi-om another culture. I have some personal experiences in this area; some humorous, others quite embarrassing! One of my business associates and I were talking with his business partner from South Africa. Even though we were all speaking English, one of the phrases we used caused his partner to go completely silent. We had both reassured him that we would keep him in the loop regarding some aspect of the business. It wasn't until two weeks later that he re-established contact with us and shared that he finally understood what we really had meant. You see, in his dialect, we had told him that we would keep him pregnant! Not at all what we had intended, I can assure you. In another case, we learned that some European countries don't have a direct translation for "word of mouth," so they translate it to "mouth to mouth." I had to explain that this has a totally different connotation in the United States. There were a lot of people over here getting quite excited about this "mouth to mouth" marketing taking place in Europe! Another example is that it took me a few minutes to figure out what my Australian associates were saying when, upon meeting me, they all said (incredibly fast): "g'daymight." I finally had to ask and was told: "Oh, for our American friend here—we are saying 'good day, mate'." There is a very accurate and complete slang dictionary at the following website, which you might find useful when traveling around the world: http://lipas.uwasa.fi/termino/collect/ slang.html. If you have the ability to consult with someone in that country who's familiar with that culture before interacting with their business people, jump at it. It was in-
Consideration Of 'Personal Space'
When networking and meeting others with whom you wish to pursue word-ofmouth marketing, it's crucial to understand the subtle, unspoken dynamics of personal space in every...