Most of us have heard—or lived—at least one embarrassing story about how they hugged someone when the other person went for a handshake. Let’s imagine this situation during a business trip. We know… not pleasant. We are all aware that the world is filled with numerous cultures and traditions, yet it is difficult to know them all and to follow who has what customs. In France, even though not speaking French is completely acceptable, you are expected to apologize before engaging in further conversations. Meanwhile in Tokyo, the way you treat your business card reflects how you’ll treat your relationship with your Japanese colleague: business cards should be presented with both hands face up.
Here is a list of 5 reasons why researching the traditions and manners of the country you are traveling to is important.
1. Being Prepared Makes Your Trip Better
There is nothing worse than not knowing what to do and how to act when arriving in a new country. Whether you are traveling for work or not, being prepared will get you out of many situations. Googling can be cumbersome and time consuming. We all know it’s not what you want to do before a trip, but you’ll have to figure out a way to know the country you are visiting before you arrive. This can be anything: a few phrases, how to say hello, simple greeting manners or even how to dress. Your experience will be easier if you don’t have to handle the awkward stares of the locals because you have prepared for basic scenarios in advance.
2. Start Your Meetings Right
We all know that phrase: the first impression is always the most important one. During a business trip when you meet either potential clients or future colleagues, you want to make a good first impression and start the meeting on the right foot. Learning about how to interact, sit or even hand your business card is a way to be respectful and to impress the person facing you. The way you move and interact might be completely different to compared to the customs of other countries, so be prepared and put all the odds on your side!
3. Show Respect and Get Some in Return!
Respect is something that goes both ways. If bowing is a custom in the country you are traveling to, then don’t expect a handshake. Following local manners is a sign of respect and will put you in a favorable position for the meeting you are starting. The person facing you will be more inclined to discussion and opened to negotiation!
4. Learn More About the Country and Its History
This sounds very simple, but doing advanced research helps you better understand the country’s history and where specific manners come from. Discover more and begin to understand the culture, the way people interact and why they interact that way. A specific gesture can be a ruled tradition that is anchored in the country’s history. This is also an excellent ice breaker for a first meeting! Did you know that in South America, it is recommended to know the star player of the national soccer team just for that reason?
5. Don’t Make A Fool of Yourself
Once again, whether you are in a business situation or simply traveling for your own pleasure, it’s never enjoyable to look or even sound like an idiot when meeting someone new. You are representing your company and country with each interaction. Knowing in advance the local manners and overall traditions of the city or country you are traveling to can prevent you from leaning in for a kiss when the person is presenting you their hand for a firm handshake, or from going for a handshake when the person you are meeting is going for a respectful bow.
It’s always awkward to arrive somewhere without knowing what to do in social scenarios. Simply anticipate any possible problems, do your research, and be prepared. You’ll have a much better experience if everyone is respectful and respected.