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
- 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 him/her.
should avoid all sensitive subjects including religion and politics.
The pride that one has in one's culture and tradition are safe topics.
- 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 the miracle!
- 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 Ambassador."
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