I often have to go away on a business trip to another country and meet someone who has a different culture from my own.
So this English lesson focuses on differences in culture and business etiquette.
Some important cultural matters to consider are appearance and dress code, timekeeping,, meetings, the giving of gifts, business cards and the basics of introductions and greetings.
I have come to understand that culture in business is all about values, beliefs, behavior, appearance, time-keeping, ethics and etiquette.
Get off on the right foot and you can seal the deal. Do something considered inappropriate or culturally improper by your business associate and the whole deal can go up in smoke.
Small talk plays an essential part of a business meeting, especially across cultures and in building up rapport with your business counterpart.
Do not, however, make your personal questions too intrusive or interrogative and recognize during communication that there needs to be time for silence and reflection.
Being able, however, to speak a few words in the local language and knowing something about the country of your host, certainly goes a long way towards grace and favour.
During a meeting, consider being less confrontational and direct, more gentle, persuasive and certainly patient, embracing group solidarity rather than an individual approach.
As a rule of thumb in most countries, age equals seniority and is paramount.
Time-keeping comes to the fore as a cultural conflict for a business meeting.
I myself like to be punctual and on time but that is not always the case with many of my business counterparts who consider the scheduled time to meet as merely a suggestion or a flexible time rather than in any way fixed.
One thing for sure is never schedule a business meeting during an important religious holiday such as Christmas or Idul Eid or invite a muslim associate to dine with you during the fasting month of Ramadan between dawn and dusk.
In fact, planning a business meeting and a lengthy one at that with a muslim on a Friday, the islamic day of prayer, is absolutely a bad idea.
For a formal meeting, I would expect to wear a suit with a collared shirt, tie and black shoes but for an informal meeting, casual appearance would be considered acceptable.
In some countries such as Indonesia and Japan, it is wholly respectful to adapt a little to their dress code and if invited to do so, wear batik clothing, head dress or a kimono as the situation requires.
It is also quite customary to give a small token gift from my own country which is always appreciated. I am always careful to do a little research beforehand to make sure that whatever I give does not cause embarrassment or offense to my host.
In the west, we are accustomed to greeting people with a handshake and eye contact but I know from experience that in Japan and in Arab countries for example, the method of greeting is very different and somewhat more reverent.
A great deal of importance is placed on addressing someone in a business meeting.
It is always recommended that you address someone you meet in business by their family name or job title. It is certainly considered impolite to address someone iin business meeting by their first name unless invited to do so.
The importance of the business card is most definitely underestimated.
The business card will often be seen as an extension of your identity and should be handed directly to your business counterpart whose own business card should not be immediately placed in your wallet or back pocket but kept in view as a sign of respect,.
As we can see, there are many diversities of culture which a business traveller must be prepared for.
There are many more which have not been mentioned.
Please use the lesson to continue your practice of English through reading, writing and speaking.
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Thank you and God bless1 Happy Days!