Etiquette tips for dealing with Cultural Differences

America has never been short of different cultures. From its conception as a nation to almost three hundred years later, the cultural demographic of the country is still as varied as ever. This is important to keep in mind especially in business as never has cross-cultural interactions been more common. The possession of knowledge of different cultures, and the lack thereof, can make or a break an important business deal or relationship.

  1. Understanding the deeper meanings behind Cultures
    1. Although at first glance some cultural practices may seem unusual, most are based on deep rooted values and belief systems. Knowing this and making a concerned effort to try an understand certain behavioral or cultural customs can help in easing tensions and creating long lasting relationships.
  2. Greetings
    1. A good first impression is extremely important in business. This is reinforced when meeting different people. For example, gift giving when meeting someone in Latin cultures is valued a sign of good will and an effort to create relationships. It is equally important to understand this as it can also have negative repercussions for instance, gifting sharp objects to people in Peru can be interpreted as a sign that you would like to sever the relationships.
  3. Be open-minded
    1. Probably one of the most important aspects of cross -cultural interactions is having the mindset to understand and be willing to communicate with different people. As humans we like to simplify and organize objects and people based on out personal life experiences which results in gross miscalculations and awkward encounters at best. Everyone has lived life differently based on their own experiences and having an open mind to those experiences can lead to pleasant and fruitful interactions.
  4. Political and Social Etiquette
    1. Upon visiting countries or encountering people of foreign countries reading up on acceptable and appropriate gender interaction and/or expression is highly advisable. For example, in more conservative cultures women and men have clear social distinctions. Whether or not we agree or disagree with these distinctions it is important to respect them just the same when interacting with each other.
  5. Manners and Communication
    1. As people we generally tend to live our lives in the same 50 miles or so and therefore we view that area and the interactions we have in that area as being the norm yet in business practices, especially cross-cultural interactions, manners vary widely. In some places, punctuality may vary from on-time to anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes. In other instances, outright saying “no” can be very rude. Often times even refusing a gift or food item can be seen as a terrible gesture by someone who may have taken great care to obtain said item. Even how business is conducted can be useful in fostering relationships across seas. Everything from the amount of deference to superiors to religion and even dress play deciding factors in relationships and looking into these matters before an interaction is highly advisable.