Greetings around the world

Greetings: how to avoid a cultural faux pas

Behaviors are often specific to countries. By understanding and respecting the etiquette of other cultures, you can avoid making a mistake which could be deemed offensive and ultimately impact your relationships with a business contact.

NEW ZEALAND
Use formal titles
It is important to wear appropriate business attire and look professional. Business contacts should shake hands and refer to one another using titles such as Mr or Mrs and the person’s full name. When shaking hands, women are expected to offer their hand first and give a firm and confident handshake. One should always keep in mind that New Zealand and Australia are two distinct and independent countries. Respecting people’s personal space is also important.
Do:
dress in formal and conservative business attire; offer business cards with your full name and title.
Don’t:
refer to a New Zea Lander as Australian; get too close to someone and invade their personal space.

SAUDI ARABIA
Do not touch women
Greetings follow a relatively strict protocol. Men shake hands with one another but women are expected to wait for a man to initiate a handshake. People have a different sense of personal space than in most European countries and westerners may feel that their contact is standing too close. Physical contact is not aceptable between men and women and both should wear modest clothing. Men should cover their legs and women are expected to cover their entire body. A head covering can be worn by foreign visitors.
Do:
wait for an older person to begin a conversation; wear loose-fitting clothing.
Don’t:
touch a woman because it is a taboo; be surprised if your contact stands right in front of you.

GERMANY
Keep eye contact
Greetings are quite formal and men and women shake hands. Always shake a woman’s hand before a man’s in a group, and make sure you shake hands with everyone when entering and leaving a room. It is also important to remove your coat, hat or gloves before greeting a German. It is expected to always use a person’s title and surname, maintain direct eye contact and keep at arm’s length of the person you are speaking to.
Do: wait for women to extend their hand to be shaken; avoid accessories and wear dark color.
Don’t: put your hands in your pockets when greeting someone; invade their personal space by standing too close.

USA
Stand at an appropriate distance and smile
Greetings are generally informal although it is customary to stand up when being introduced to someone. Hand shakes are brief, confident and firm. It is important to stand at an appropriate distance from your interlocutor as Americans find close contact uncomfortable. Maintain eye contact during the handshake and introduction and continue using a person’s title and surname until you are invited to address them on a first-name basis.
Do: keep at least 2 feet (60 cm) between you and the person in front of you; smile and keep a friendly and positive attitude.
Don’t: stare at the person or touch them other than the brief handshake.

SOUTH KOREA
Don’t forget to bow and greet the elder first
Men bow then shake hands, supporting their right forearm with their left hand. Women nod slightly and don’t usually shake hands with foreigners. When they do, the woman initiates the handshake. Eye contact is very important as it shows sincerity. Always greet the oldest person first. Make sure you give your business card with both hands with the name and company facing the person you are giving it to.
Do: wait for the most senior person to extend their hand, and use professional titles.
Don’t: introduce yourself, instead ask a third person to do so and don’t forget to bow when leaving a room.

FRANCE
Kiss or shake hands
Colleagues often kiss each other’s cheeks upon greeting one another. The number of kisses to exchange can be a source of confusion for visitors of other nationalities. However, business contacts usually shake hands when greeting. Arriving a couple of minutes late is not necessarily problematic.
Do: use “vous” to address profesional contacts of a higher status to reinforce hierarchy, although “tu” is commonly used among colleagues.
Don’t: ask personal questions to business contacts because you shouldn’t be overly friendly.

GLOSSARY

  • Attire: Vestimenta, atuendo
  • Handshake: Apretón de manos
  • Personal space: Espacio vital
  • Remove: Retirar, eliminar
  • Eye contact: Contacto visual
  • Arm’s length: Distancia respetable
  • Customary: Habitualmente
  • First-name basis: Llamar por su nombre
  • To stare: Mirar fijamente
  • To bow: Inclinarse (en señal de reverencia)
  • To nod: Asentir

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