So, you are meeting a new real estate or mortgage client from another country and you wonder - do I kiss, bow, or shake hands? How do you know? What if you do the wrong thing?
This is a weighty question, and one you should not take lightly. The correct answer can have tremendous impact on your relationship with that client, or determine even IF there is a relationship. Any of your who have dealt with the business worked in other countries are well aware of this, I'm sure.
I am reading a terrific book on the subject of doing business in more than 60 countries (nope, I probably won't read it all and certainly won't be able to remember most of it) which I know can have strong applicability to our business. Some of you may have heard of it. Clever title, with far-reaching consequences.
We have heard from a number of people on AR about business with international buyers and sellers, and understanding cultural differences and being sensitive to them, is critical to your success. It's all about the relationship you establish, and how you handle it can make or break you. Just one example - do you know how and when to hand a business card to someone from Japan? (this was discussed somewhere on AR but darned if I can find it).
I don't necessarily suggest reading the entire book simply because it is overwhelming and addresses issues from 60 countries. However, a careful reading of the introduction and then selecting a number of countries to review (perhaps of clients you have, have had, might have) will help you gain a better understanding of the many differences and issues you must be sensitive to.
Each country is addressed using the following topics:
What's Your cultural IQ? - 3 questions to gauge your knowledge
Tips on Doing Business in ___ - several highlight to keep in mind
Country Background - History, government, language, etc.
Know Before You Go - natural and human hazards (may not be applicable to your real estate situation here)
Cultural Orientation - cultural anthropology view of that country
Business Practices - being on time, appointments, negotiation, etc.
Protocol - greetings, titles, forms of address, gestures, gifts, dress
As pointed out several times, there are always exceptions, and not everyone from a particular country behaves like every others (we don't in the US, do we??!!). And some characteristics are more enduring than others, while others may be altered by living in a different country (say someone from Brazil who has lived in the US for an extended time).
The book also talks in depth about:
- different ways that people organize and process information (closed vs. open minded)
- how they think (abstractive vs. associative)
- the basis of their negotiation strategies
- the manner in which people reduce anxiety
- issues of equality and inequality
and much more.
Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands is a great resource and fascinating reading. A good one to add to your expanding list so you are prepared for your next international client! BTW they have a new book out focussed exclusively on business with Asian countries.
Anyone have particular experiences they would like to share?