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Your International Greeting Style, “Business or Pleasure”

By Janet Adetu,

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit the continent of Asia specifically New Delhi, India with my family. Though we had visited Singapore earlier India was an entirely new experience. It was interesting to see the different ways both men and women would greet everywhere we went.

handshakeAt the hotel, the service staff were so courteous, with their two hands together and a polite bow, one to say hello and the other to recognize our presence. I wondered whether this was just because we were guests at the hotel; but surprisingly we saw a lot of this everywhere. The people were indeed very friendly, polite, respectful and considerate.

As it has not been my custom to bow and with my two hands, all I could do was smile, show good eye contact and express a clear appreciation of these greetings. The question on my mind though was ‘’ should I have done likewise?

Well, India happens to be a nation of multiple millions with hundreds of differing tribes every 200km with varying languages, food and lifestyles as well as greeting styles.  At the Taj Mahal, the people of the town of Agra were also totally different. As we travel the world, we experience so many styles of greeting, be it a hug, a kiss, a bow, or the global handshake, they are all governed by the culture of the environment. Knowing how to greet in such foreign countries is important especially where you need to maintain harmony, establish a business relationship and portray honesty, trustworthiness and professionalism.

In Africa, depending on what part of the continent you would kiss both cheeks once or twice for instance in Ghana or Kenya maybe a kiss on either cheek upto three moves, while in Nigeria depending on the specific social setting you may just hug once, or offer a courtesy bow if an older person.

The advent of global business makes it even more pertinent to know the business culture and greeting styles of the host country. Sometimes you may get away with formality and the universal handshake depending on how important the meeting and how important the person. Even when handshakes are universally acceptable, the strength of your handshake, the use of one or two hands, the length of the shake, your body language and posture are even more important than the handshake itself.

We do live in a global village which has become hybrid by the day. As an executive or an individual the onus is on you to bear in mind the act of making others feel comfortable around you. How you treat others, the way you conduct and project yourself in any situation determines your level of polish. Everybody is allowed an awkward moment or two, but your best judgement of any situation is what matters most. You do not want to be seen hugging when indeed you should be merely shaking. These are part of the well- honed etiquette finesse needed to build your powerful presence in business and in your social life.

 A Few Notes:   International Greeting

United Kingdom:               Acknowledge a formal hand shake with personal space.

France:                A kiss on both cheeks is customary in social                                settings

Ghana:                In greeting a group of people start greeting from your left hand side to right side

Middle East:       Eye contact is important, Women do not shake hands with men.

China: The longer your handshake the better

Korea: Shake with both hands

Mexico:               Smoking is generally permitted in business setting greeting less formal.

Nigeria:               First name basis not appropriate among the elderly. Courtesy or bow expected in some settings

All Africa:           Greetings are formal, time is not always well observed

Germany:           Punctuality is very important. Women are expected to extend their hand first.

Japan: The bow is traditional, hands flat against the thighs with low eye gaze.

Australia:           Solid handshake with good eye contact

United States:    Always have your business cards at any meeting

Canada:              Larger personal space when greeting. Cultural etiquette is considered important.

Italy:   Good solid handshake. No business done between middle of July to middle of August.





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