Traveling, especially abroad, has a sense of mystery to it that jet setters seem to have a craving for. No land is too far away. No land is too foreign or culture too strange. Over the years, I have made friends and met people who travel abroad for work as often I travel to the beach in NC. They have been there and there and have done all of that. Their stories are full of expansion and intrigue. From savvy business deals to rubbing shoulders in the marketplace with the indigenous people, to basically being responsible for their own personal safety and security.
Because some of their stories are jaw dropping, my creative genes went to work. Cross culture etiquette!
One experience that made my jaw drop was shared with me when I stopped by to chat with a neighbor who is an engineer with a Fortune 500 company. While explaining my vision to teach business and social etiquette, he smiled and said, “I could have used that a while back”. He began to tell of his experience while facilitating a workshop in China.
He was well prepared. His energy was high and the presentation got off to a great start. A part of the presentation consisted of a question and answer segment. As the audience answered questions correctly, he would toss them a small gift to keep them engaged and as an act of appreciation. After a few tosses, he noticed the room’s energy fell flat. My neighbor had no idea what was happening but he could sense the shift in energy. During the morning break, he was pulled aside and told that throwing things to people in the Chinese culture is a sign of disrespect. Throwing the chocolate was associated with feeding animals. In western culture, we would not think twice about it. He apologized and finished his presentation. Secondly, no one spoke up and challenged him because he was the facilitator. Therefore, he was seen as their superior. No one challenges their superior in the Chinese culture. He was not perceived as a colleague or their equal but as a superior. Hierarchy in the Chinese culture is present and active.
Interesting story wasn’t it?
How have you been prepared to handle a similar situation? Have you been trained to address like issues with grace and professionalism? Prepare yourself and your team(s) to make business travel and hosting second nature. Remember, every professional is a (re) presentation of the company they work for.
POLISHED professionals are the ones who SHINE the brightest.
Terry Brooks-Allen is one of central Indiana's top ten leading Etiquette Specialists and Image Consultants, coaching and training
T. Brooks-Allen | Business, Social, and Dining Etiquette