Mind the Gaffe – Tread with Care!
As the world shifts on its axis, international associations are starting to explore new territories. Increasingly they are holding events in emerging economies hoping to convert delegates into members.
But industry leaders are warning that this rush for global reach, if handled badly, can do an associations’ reputation more harm than good. The world may be getting smaller, but cultural morés are still entrenched. It pays to tread with care !
The devil is always hiding in the detail – association executives and meeting planners should pay close attention to seemingly trivial aspects of social interaction – a simple nod of the head, for example, could give the wrong impression.
In some Asian countries, nodding simply means, ‘I am listening’ – it does not mean I agree with you. Similarly, the OK sign is not okay in some cultures – it can be offensive.
When in China facial expressions should be kept to a minimum to avoid any misunderstanding, and it is deemed uncouth to gesticulate when speaking.
There are strictly observed codes of practice when it comes to holding business meetings too. The host always starts the conversation and others listen. No one interrupts. There is a moment of silence and reflection, then others answer. You must always allow for pauses.
Some cultures, the Swiss and the Germans, for example are low context cultures where everything is explained. But others, such as the Arabs and the Chinese are high context cultures, where very little is explained.
It doesn’t stop there. In some countries there is no concept of personal space. In Latin American or Arabic countries people will be offended if you shy away from an embrace. Americans on the other hand have a strong sense of personal space. In some cultures looking in the eye says you are straightforward and honest, in others it is seen as rude and challenging.
In Asian cultures, show respect and don’t come across as arrogant. Be prudent, pragmatic and tolerant. Especially in China – it is important to keep calm. Don’t get angry, that is seen as a weakness. People in China never want to lose face.
Indians are not easy to understand, there’s a vast difference between North and South, food, religion, dress and language. Despite all this diversity there is a commonality and shared ground based on an understanding of Hinduism – not as a religion but as a philosophy. Karma is a very popular concept.
Indian society is also very hierarchical, based on seniority within the family. So when you go to a meeting it’s the oldest person you address first and never greet people by their first names.
Indians are very bad at saying no to people so ask very specific questions if you want a straight answer. Western meeting planners may find Indians’ approach to business a little haphazard, but that’s because Indians have a culture based on adaptation and innovation, rather than planning.
The ability to make something out of nothing, to make the best of a situation as it presents itself, is highly prized in India. Be patient decision making can be slow.
In India, it simply isn’t done to allow delegates to leave an event hungry. Everyone must be amply fed.
Before any meeting keep it simple, avoid complexity, brush up on your language and facilitation skills. One of the fundamental aspects of doing business in a foreign country is understanding their culture. Deal with a local intermediary – a DMC – someone who knows the procedures and the protocol better than you – to ensure your event runs smoothly.
Be polite, show respect and don’t make hasty assumptions and you should be OK.
Source : amimagazine.eu
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