doing business abroad, vacationing in a distant land or simply
welcoming guests from another culture, with a little research
and preparation, accompanied with some sensitivity skills training,
you can make a lasting and favorable impression instead of a disastrous
one. You never get another chance to make a first impression!
In fact, remove the word "foreign" or "foreigner" from your vocabulary
because in the dictionary it means "alien" or "not belonging".
Better to refer to others as "visitors" or "guests." Here are
ten protocol rules on social interaction to keep in mind:
- Be patient
when building trust in establishing relationships. People from
other countries take much longer than Americans and they observe
a greater formality than we do. As an example, to build trust,
you wouldn't want to ask someone from Great Britain his or her
occupation on first meeting.
- It is courteous
to ALWAYS stand when you are introduced to another person, regardless
of cultural background.
- Before receiving
or meeting an honored guest from abroad, prepare by researching
such data as: their population, ethnic and religious composition,
official languages, geography, especially the capital and major
cities, government structure, national leaders and political parties.
Not only will you appear informed but your guest will also be
complimented because you took the time to learn something about
should avoid all sensitive subjects including religion and politics.
The pride that one has in one's culture and tradition are safe
- Slow down
your speech and don't raise your voice because you think the other
person cannot understand you. Have you noticed how people just
talk louder to be understood? Volume doesn't usually increase
comprehension. People with foreign accents are not necessarily
hard of hearing
- Even though
most people around the world speak English, it's often difficult
to understand us, especially if we use slang, buzzwords, idioms,
jargon, and lingo. One of my assistants would often tell the Italian
Consul General, "Sherri's on another line but she'll give you
a buzz back." She never realized that the Italians might think
I wanted to take them out for cocktails on the town... It's smart
to eliminate phrases like "It's raining cats and dogs" or someone
who eats them in their country may just run to the window to watch
- If interpreters
are used, they should meet with the person for whom they are interpreting
in advance to learn their language patterns, any special terminology
and especially numbers, which could change the whole dimension
of things. Remember, interpreters are not translators, so the
terms should not be confused. A translator renders what is written
into another language. An interpreter does this orally in the
presence of the speaker. There is an entire protocol regarding
the use of interpreters in terms of where they stand, sit, etc.
interaction cues are extremely important. "Yes" or an affirmative
nod often means "Yes I hear you" in Asian cultures, not "Yes I
agree". By looking at the interaction through American eyes, you
might think you just closed the deal of the century. By avoiding
the word "No", some Asians believe they can avoid creating any
disharmony, as harmony is a cherished value in these cultures.
- Never mimic
what you think may be a national gesture. If you are wrong about
the meaning of the gesture, the results could mean disaster. For
example, the American "OK" sign means money in Japan.
- Never slap
someone's back, the "good old Joe" American routine. Touching
and rules of social distance etiquette vary in other cultures.
Mr. Bill Black,
the former State of California Chief of Protocol, aptly defines
protocol as "The lubricant that allows two or more moving parts
to come together without friction." By becoming more culturally
aware, you will show respect for others, gain a greater appreciation
for cultural differences and become a smarter "Global Village
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