Cross Cultural Etiquette
Etiquette refers to the formal rules which govern `socially acceptable behavior’. These are the rules or norms we observe in our social or professional life. Every society has its own rules and conventions which determine polite behavior in a given social situation. If in a situation, two societies or countries are involved, say in a cultural exchange or business partnerships, then cross-cultural etiquette comes into play. This means, each of party or side involved must make an effort to understand and learn to respect rules and norms practiced in respective countries and behave appropriately.
Having been ruled by different rulers early, we as a nation have been exposed to cross —cultural etiquette. But with open policies, migration in search of better prospects, globalization, out-sourcing of jobs, cultural exchange programmes and business collaborations, cross-cultural etiquette-awareness and its role has become more important today. Thus, it has become part of the training programme too.
Cross cultural business talks and dialogues depends on or builds its foundations on understanding etiquettes and approaches. In today’s global scenario or culturally diverse economy, ignorance of cultural differences can have an impact on economy; ignorance of cultural differences can have an impact on business success. Both at the organizational and individual levels cross-cultural understanding can have positive influence on the dealings
And, lack of it can result in misunderstanding or cause Offence. In India, welcome is done in a traditional manner mod business is personal-that is agreement or a partnership s made only with those we know, trust and feel comfortable. This is true to most of the Asian countries Where as in Europe and North —American countries, business is contractual in nature and personal relationships are seen unhealthily.
Greetings-in India it’s a ‘Namaste’ or a handshake with eye contact. In United States, they shake hand firmly for about 3-5 seconds with eye contact. In France, hand shake is brief and casual. In US, UK and Northern Europe, strong direct eye contact conveys confidence and sincerity. In South American countries it means trustworthiness and in China and Japan prolonged eye-contact is rude.
Talking of time, Western Countries are clock conscious and punctuality is crucial unlike India where a little delay is acceptable, but apologies expected. In Japan and China being late is an insult. In Europe and middle-east there is no urgency. Even in Russia, punctuality is of so important.
There is difference in the table manners too of different countries. In the west business over a meal is acceptable but in China, it’s strictly no business at meals.
During social interaction-social lunch or dinner, gift giving is a norm in India. It’s an integral part of Japan and China too. But, in US and UK it has negative meanings. Even in Australia, no gifts are accepted. However, during social dinner, flowers and chocolates are acceptable. In China gifts like clock, hanky, anything in white, blue (x black is not to be given. Pens are favorite gifts.
In Russia talking with hands in pockets is consider rude and patience is an extremely important criteria which is tested. In Japan and Australia, one must not litter. in UK and Australia, one must stand in a queue whether it is a bus stop or a station. The list goes on….
Cross-cultural etiquette has become important also because of cross-cultural relationships or marriages taking place these days. Understanding each other’s culture, beliefs and ways helps in making the necessary adjustments and live life happily in spite of the differences.
So, as the old saying goes, “in Rome live as Romans” its better to be aware and follow cross —cultural etiquettes to work out a cordial working atmosphere and avoiding embarrassing situations.
Today, since it’s the need of the hour there are so many finishing schools coming up which aims at giving a finishing touch to the educated, graduated and ambitious youth by teaching them general etiquettes and cross-cultural etiquettes.