Body language may speak louder than words!
This presentation relates behavior differences and business meetings for a better understanding.
How would a businessperson react when facing people from different cultures and background in a business conference? How should this person address a problem to an audience of various cultures?
Communication plays a major role in both above scenarios. The key idea is the way of delivering a message and receiving a message from each individual. The message can be the verbal or the nonverbal form of an idea, a thought, or a feeling that one person wishes to communicate to another person or to a group of people (Judy & Paul, 2000).
Our aim is to present readers the possible social behaviors and situations that people may encounter in a business environment in various cultures. By discussing in details dress codes, time management, interpersonal relations, handling problems, and table manners, we will provide you an image of various cultures in a business world, and will illustrate how we should react properly and respectfully in different situations.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 3
Social Behavior in a Business Environment in Various Cultures 4
Dress Code for Business Meetings 8
The International Business Standard 8
Differences In Dress Codes Around The World 9
Time Management in Business Meetings 11
Greeting Gestures in Business 14
Exchanging Name Cards in Business 15
Interpersonal Communication 17
Handling Problems 20
Attitude Towards Conflicts 21
Different Approach in Traditional Problem Solving 22
Problem Solving in the Modern World 23
Cross Cultural Dining Etiquette 24
Our Suggestions 29
List of Figures
Figure 1 Schematization of a Company 4
Figure 2 Meeting Between two Foreign Companies 6
Figure 3 Attitude Towards Conflicts 21
Social Behavior in a Business Environment in Various Cultures
At the first glance, there may not be much difference among companies; but the true difference is in how employees behave within a company. This difference is even more emphasized when two foreign companies meet for an international business meeting.
What is a company? A company is made of people who create rules to meet a certain standard of conduct and productivity (see Figure 1). This definition of company is applicable to all companies in the world, but why is there so much difference among them?
The answer to this question is found in only one word: Culture.
Thanks to or because of our culture, two same situations may be interpreted and viewed in a totally different manner.
Figure 1. Schematization of a Company. A company is a place where people from different backgrounds meet to produce a work under specific rules administered either by the law or by a hierarchy.
What is Culture? Culture is a simple word to define complex and different behaviors among a certain collectivity; there are three key words that can refer directly to it.
These words are: values, norms, and practices (De Long, 1997).
Values are principles passed on to us as children; they are moral codes that we apply within a community.
Norms are social conventions, rules that are recognized within a population.
Practices are customs, procedures, traditions or even policies; they are anything that we do almost by habits.
Values, norms and practices are the source of our behavior. Hence, culture is reciprocal to behavior.
What happens when an American company A meets with and Chinese company C? As mentioned above, companies are represented with a same diagram and the only factor that makes companies so different is Culture-Behavior (see Figure 2). We will focus on what is in between two companies and on what may happen if cultural behavior is not taken into consideration while in an international meeting or in any intercultural business appointments.
Figure 2. Meeting Between two Foreign Companies. As mentioned in the passage above, the main difference among companies is the people behavior, which is
related to their culture. The ABC of an international meeting is all about B.
When A meets C without B, behavior is not the Linking Bridge.
To better show how much it is important to consider social behavior in a business environment in various cultures we imagined a role-play story -for the oral presentation only- with an American businessman called Mr. B.
Throughout his work day, work week, and work month, he will meet people from other horizons, other culture and will interact with other behaviors.
Let Mr. B, a busy American businessman, who does not deem cultural behaviors to bridge his company with those which he wants to do business.
Dress Code for Business Meetings
Dress code for business meetings has become increasingly more important and having a written dress code makes sense, especially in offices where somebody has to deal with customers. People get their first impression of a person in the first five minutes. In these important five minutes, they judge whether you are a professional businessperson. The way one look plays an important role in the daily business life especially when doing business overseas with high potential companies.
When doing business with international companies one should be aware of the dress codes in their respective countries. Offending someone by appearance will make the company lose not only business but also its and your reputation as professionals. "You want to make a statement about your business not a personal statement" (Wolfe, 2010).
Most countries have almost adopted the same dress code and even the Eastern countries adhere to the Western business dress code. But still, there are certain differences.
The International Business Standard
Men mostly wear a dark colored suit and a tie. Shirts must be button-down and can vary in color. However, businessmen should avoid bright colors and stick to conservative colors and avoid patterns. Dress pants should also be in dark colors such as black, dark grey, and navy or dark brown. Do not wear denim jeans, even if they are dark blue or black. Watches should be decent conservative, not bold.
For women almost the same dress code is appropriate. "Tailored dresses, as well as skirts with a blouse and jacket" (Wolfe, 2010).
As with men, women should also pay attention to colors. Conservative colors are appropriate. Women do not have to wear a skirt or a dress. Nice fabric pants are suitable for women too. If women decide to wear a skirt, they have to pay attention to the length of the skirt. A skirt should either be knee length or a little bit longer. Women should not show too much skin. In this situation, it also counts to be conservative.
Furthermore, women should make sure that everything matches. When going to a business meeting, women should keep make-up and perfume subtle and should wear simple jewelry and watches. For women it is also important, to be aware of their hair color. Shocking colors are not appropriate for international business.
Above all, the business attire should perfectly fit for both, men and women. It does not make a good appearance on international business partner when you are wearing something too loose or too tight.
Differences In Dress Codes Around The World
The United States of America. The United States counts as one of the most conservative countries, concerning the dress code. Most companies even have a written dress code. However, business attire varies from the East Coast to the West Coast in the United States.
"The dress style in the East tends to be more formal while it is more casual in the West" (Kidway, 2010).
Both, men and women should pay attention to what they wear and how it matches.
Men wear a good fitting suit in dark colors, and the shirt underneath can be more colorful to accent the attire.
Women wear dresses, well- fitting suits or outfits in darker colors as well. If they wear dresses or skirts, it is a must to wear nylons. Especially, in the United States, you should pay attention to the length of the skirts. Do not wear them shorter than knee length. Make - up should not be too colorful as well. Keep it to the basics.
Both, female and men employees should not wear excessive jewelry; choose rather one good piece of jewelry than different cheap looking ones. Furthermore, both genders should be careful about the amount of perfume and cologne they are wearing, just use a decent amount. do not let the whole room smell of your perfume or cologne.
France. In France, business attire is also conservative. Men wear dark suits and ties. The same is valid for women. "Women also dress conservatively in suits or classic coordinates of subdued colors. French women do not wear slacks in the business arena"
(Business Attire, 2010).
Spain. In Spain, business people attach importance to their business style and to their accessories. In this country, like in any other countries, men wear a suit but "Spanish men may wear a greater variety of colors and patterns than in any other countries."
(Business Etiquette in Spain, 2010) Women wear well suitable skirts, dresses or pants. During the spring and summer seasons, they tend to wear light colors, whereas during the winter and fall, they use darker colors.
Germany. In Germany, the dress code is similar to most of the other European countries. Both, men and women wear conservative, dark suits, especially in banks, insurance companies and major corporations. A white shirt and simple tie is common in the German business world. Women also wear well-tailored suits and dresses and friendly colored blouses.
China. In China, the conservative suit, in a defined and neutral color, is common business attire. This is appropriate for both, men and women. "Professional women should not wear high heels to business meetings, so as not to tower over the men" (King, 2010).
Furthermore, women should avoid showing too much décolleté or wearing skirts above the knee.
India. The business attire in India is different than in the other countries already mentioned. In view of the fact that India is a hot country all year long, the business attire is more a casual. "Standard attire for men is slacks and short-sleeved shirts" (Business Attire, 2010). Women use the conservative, but casual style for pants and dresses. "Do not wear skirts that rise above the knee, and never wear a sleeveless dress or blouse" (Women, 2010).
Bangladesh. The Dress code in Bangladesh is more informal, due to the fact that it is hot and humid there. "Local managers rarely wear business suits and ties, as they prefer short-sleeve dress shirts and slacks, or traditional loose fitting, long tunics and trousers" (Business Attire, 2010). Women wear neither skirts that are above the knee nor are they allowed to show too much neckline.
Pakistan. In Pakistan, conservative business attire is appropriate and the norm. "Pakistani women and men wear the shalwer kamis, a wide legged trouser and shirt" (Business attire, 2010). In this country, women should cover their knees when wearing a skirt or dress. The neckline should also be covered. The sleeve of the blouse has to reach the forearms.
Although there are many similarities in most countries around the world, there are nonetheless differences. Business people have to pay attention when doing business with international companies. Everyone should respect the business attire of other countries and adapt to the business meeting as well as to the stay in the country.
Time Management in Business Meetings
Time Management is one of the essentially most important factors that ensure the success of any business. Implementation of proper time management conveys the professionalism of one's business.
The concept of time is treated differently across cultures. Punctuality is considered to be indicative of the level of commitment and interest in work in some cultures. In Germany and Japan, arriving late is considered rude and unacceptable but in Saudi Arabia, punctuality is not of high importance.
United States of America
Americans arrive on time for meetings, as they give much importance to time and punctuality. In the Northeast and Midwest, people are extremely punctual and view being late for a meeting as a sign of disrespect (Cheong, 2007).
In the Southern and Western states, people may be a little more relaxed, but to be safe, a business person should always arrive on time, although he/she may have to wait a little before the meeting begins (Cheong, 2007).
If there is an agenda proposed for the meeting, it will be followed. At the end of the meeting, there will be a summary of what was decided and who will be accomplishing the tasks.
Punctuality is a British trait and is important in business situations. British are always on time for business meetings. Business meetings are formal with a clearly defined purpose and include an agenda. British decisions always rely on facts and figures, rather than on emotions. British try to maintain eye contact while speaking. After a meeting, they will send a letter summarizing what was decided and the next steps to be taken.
In France, punctuality is a relaxed affair. Being fifteen minutes late to a business meeting is acceptable. Although the French are polite and courteous in business meetings, their communication style is direct, questioning and probing. The French are most receptive to low-key, rational presentations and arguments that clearly highlight benefits (Cheong, 2007).
In India, meetings should be arranged well in advance. Meetings should be confirmed by email/writing or phone. Indians expect punctuality, but flexibility is paramount; being 10 minutes late for the meetings will not have disastrous consequences. When entering a meeting room, one must always approach and greet the most senior person first. Meetings should always commence with some conversation, which would be part of the getting-to- know-you process (Cheong, 2007).
Greeting Gestures in Business
A gesture is a form of non-verbal communication made with a part of the body, used instead of or in combination with verbal communication. The language of gestures is rich in ways for individuals to express a variety of feelings and thoughts, from contempt and hostility to approval and affection. Every culture has its own unique set of gestures and facial expressions. Gestures can show happiness, encouragement, anger, sadness, boredom, hope, and many other emotions (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
It is particularly important in business to show cultural respect when welcoming others because the first impression is always the lasting impression.
Bowing is a customary Japanese nonverbal communication. Bowing during an introduction shows status. Business inferiors must bow lower than superiors.
The Japanese walk in short, quick strides with drooping shoulders. This low posture is called teishisei. In Japan, eye contact is considered aggressive and rude. It is wise to avoid eye contact as it shows respect. Pointing with the index finger is considered rude and one should point with the entire hand (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
Japanese find it very hard to say no. They prefer to phrase questions so that they can answer yes. "For example, do you disagree with this?" (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007)
In China, business meetings start with the shaking of hands and a slight nod of the head. Non-Chinese business people must be careful not to be overly vigorous when shaking hands as the Chinese will interpret this as aggressive. The Chinese avoid direct eye contact and staring. They do not interrupt when another person is speaking. Listening is a sign of politeness and of contemplation and they consider winking to be rude (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
"Chinese tend to smile easily when they feel difficulty or embarrassment. Smile because of embarrassment by a Chinese might be interpreted as being friendly by a Westerner, but really they are embarrassed" (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
"Greeting with Namaste -placing both hands together with a slight bow- is a very common nonverbal communication and shows respect for Indian customs" (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
Indians value personal space; therefore, one shouldn't stand close to them, allowing an arm's length space. Indians frequently interpret side-to-side hand waves as no. When an Indian answers I will try to your question, he/she means no. This is considered to be a polite no. Indians consider pointing a finger at someone to be rude (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
In Russia, a handshake is always appropriate when greeting or leaving. Russian belief holds that shaking hands over a threshold will lead to an argument. Russians stand close when talking. When a Russian touches another person during conversation, it is usually a sign of confidence. The thumbs-up sign can be an acceptable gesture of approval. Putting your thumb through your index and middle fingers or making the ok sign is considered very rude gestures in Russia. Speaking or laughing loudly in public is discouraged (The Importance of Nonverbal Communication, 2007).
Exchanging Name Cards in Business
Business cards are an internationally recognized means of presenting personal contact details. When traveling abroad for business, it is advisable to have one side of your business card translated into the appropriate language. Business cards are generally exchanged at the beginning of or at the end of an initial meeting.
It is wise to make a point of studying any business card, commenting on it and clarifying information before putting it away (Seubert, 2010).
In Japan, the business card represents the face of the person whose name it bears. As such, business cards are important, and they must be exchanged and handled with an appropriate air of respect and concern. The Japanese business card exchange takes place upon meeting someone for the first time or may even take place before a formal introduction. There is no set rule on whether the guest or the host offers his or her business card first
Japanese always offer and accept business cards with two hands. Japanese culture considers a card offered with one hand a disrespectful sign of carelessness and casualness, especially between business acquaintances. Japanese business card exchange protocol requires that one should hold the card with care. They consider placing a business card in the front shirt pocket, pants pocket or in the wallet to be unforgivably rude. Japanese prefer leaving the business card on the table in front of them to be put away at the end of the meeting, or placing the business card in a special holder, preferably made of metal or leather, to show respect and concern for the card (Seubert, 2010).
In China, one side of the business card is translated into Chinese using simplified Chinese characters that are printed in gold ink, as gold is an auspicious color.
The Business card will include the name of the business, if the company is the oldest or largest in China, that fact will be highlighted on the card. Chinese hold the card in both hands when offering it. They consider writing on someone's card to be rude unless directed
In India, the name of the business, company website and the employee's university degree, if any, will be mentioned on the business card. Indians use the right hand to give and receive business cards. Business cards need not be translated into Hindi as English is widely spoken within the business community.
Business card etiquette is relaxed in the United Kingdom and it involves little ceremony.
British do not consider placing the cards in the pocket as bad etiquette. Business cards should be kept clean and presentable. Foreigners should not feel obliged to hand out a business card to everyone they meet, as it is not expected (Seubert, 2010).
When the Western world meets the Eastern world, taboos are definitely a factor that Western countries should take into consideration while dealing with Eastern countries.
Universal taboos such as religion, race, political opinions and drugs are well eschewed, but what may be common discussions or behaviors on one side of the world may also be pure sins on the other side.
Most experts highly recommend that those travelling to a foreign country should hire a translator to help to translate not only the foreign language but also the nonverbal communication such as gestures, eye contacts and limbs moves (Cater Rash, 2007). Cater Rash (2007) also mentioned that experts encourage business travelers to talk with someone who has already been to the country in order to avoid making any offences.
Awareness of differences in cultures is an important element when doing business; from the article of Cater Rash (2007) we selected four major eastern countries, which have significantly different behaviors.
Japanese are quite solemn and have specific routines while conducting a meeting. It is good to know that the farther you are from the door the higher is your rank in the company.
Another important point is that when you want to ask a question to the highest ranking person you have to address it to the subordinates of that person and they will also probably answer it; whereas in a meeting in the western world, you interfere with others and you speak directly to the person you want to discuss with.
A very common behavior is that the highest raking person closes his or her eyes to better concentrate; not being aware of such a behavior may put you in an uncomfortable situation.
A difference, which might interfere with your habits and especially with your schedules is that when you meet for the first time in Japan, the first meeting is short and it is when Japanese evaluate the relationship they may have with you. Business is hardly spoken in the first meeting.
Last thing but not the least, it is a tradition to exchange a gift at the end of each meeting. The present should not be expensive but rather a simple and nice gift.
Chinese are not as formal as Japanese, but they also attach importance to relationship. To develop that relationship, the emphasis is on sharing a meal and a drink. It is important to be cheerful to show gratitude.
While in the Western world signing a contract indicates the conclusion of a deal, in china this marks the opening of new relationship.
In china you should not "speak" with your hands, as Chinese find it distracting.
When doing business in Russia you need to be prepared to do it around a dining table, and that includes alcoholic drinks. It is a custom to offer several toasts. The host will usually start first. The second toast is for any women attending the meeting and she will, then, return the toast with a third one. Your turn should come right after the latter and you should offer your toast to the host.
Even if the meeting does not take place around a dining table, there is a high probability to have food to be served. It is good manners to bring food items in order to share with the fellow members.
The Middle East
Middle East countries are mainly Muslim and due to the religion, the left hand is related to bodily functions. This is taboo to use it in any social circumstances.
If you ever cross your legs while in a meeting, the sole of your shoe should never face your homolog or any other persons in the room, as this is an offence among the Middle East cultures.
Every problem initiates with a conflict. Under globalization, the business world has become more and more interactive, and the conflict between individualists (Westerners) and collectivists (Easterners) has risen. Nevertheless, people from different regions of the world are integrating and looking for strategies to deal with conflicts. In this section, we will concentrate more on differences between the Eastern (China, Japan, and India) and the Western (United States of America, and Europe) countries.
Attitude Towards Conflicts
A conflict is the interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values; they see the other party as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals (Putnam & Poole, 1987). Usually, the Easterners prefer avoiding conflicts rather than solving them directly as the Westerners do. (See Figure 3)
Figure 3. Attitude Towards Conflicts. Blue refers to the Western countries and red refers to the Eastern countries. The black circle represents the problem. The footprints refer to the ways in handling problems of people in those countries.
A study of management behavior (Tang & Kirkbride, 1986) also indicates that most Chinese high-level managements favor more conservative strategies; while the Europeans, for example British, prefer more assertive strategies, such as collaborating and strong competition. For instance, if during a business meeting both parties, Chinese and Americans, had to adjust the sales plan of a certain region, and the analysis shows that it is not that profitable having business there; the Chinese would probably think of withdrawing business from that region, but the Americans would prefer finding out the reasons why it is not profitable.
Moreover, there are some great differences existing between the Western and the Eastern world. When a problem is discovered in a Chinese company, people tend to face it as a group; whereas in a German company, people would prefer addressing the problem to a specific person. For instance, if a company is over budget in the financial year, Chinese would be more likely to cut down the cost throughout the whole operation in the company; however, German will be more focused on why the budgeting department did not budget out the potential over-expense risk.
Similarly, this happens in Indian companies. When there is a problem, and this problem is not related to one specific person, it is not a problem. We can see that the Western world has a great influence on the Indians, and the attitude towards problem is more individualistic, compared with the Eastern world. However, we can see a trend of merging in attitude towards problem solving in real life. The western population is becoming more focused on the collective interests of the organization; while nowadays the Eastern population is concerned more about their individual interests.
Different Approach in Traditional Problem Solving
As discussed in previous paragraphs, conflicts bring up problems. There are different approaches in solving these problems. Yuan Wenli (2010) stated that a third party approach is widely accepted in Chinese business environment. In other words, when one cannot solve the problem, the businessperson will usually escalate it to the upper level. In this situation, communication becomes hierarchical, meaning, people who are involved in a problem are talking to higher positions of management rather than within their same level. It is interesting that in the western world; however, people are likely to invite stakeholders sit together and share their ideas. This difference in culture is also noticeable in a classroom. Different opinions cannot be shared freely in a Chinese class. It is only the teacher that can provide the most accurate answers. When students have different ideas towards certain subject, they are not encouraged to discuss, but rather to consult a senior for the final opinion. However, teachers in American ask students to participate in class. Even if there are various opinions, the teacher will play the role of arbitrator.
The same phenomenon can be found in the business world. For example, in Chinese culture, when employees face a problem, they are more willing to approach seniors to find a solution; especially when conflicts arise. The reason why they do this may be due to the so called the face theory. Chinese care a lot about the latter and, therefore, address the issue to a third party to avoid "losing the face" (to avoid being in shame). As for the Westerners approach, especially Americans, parties involved in a problem will sit together and come up with a better solution.
The difference can be dated back to the ancient time, when the Chinese were organized in a more hierarchical way than the Americans. Thus, an authoritative figure is thought to be helpful in coordinating a problematic situation in the mind of Chinese (Yuan, 2010).
Another difference between Chinese and Americans is that Chinese people always think that it is not good not to know the answer to a question asked by a senior. This situation can be found in Western organizations located in China, where there are more Chinese employees. For example, when a American senior accounting manager asks his or her Chinese assistant about a figure in the annual report, the Chinese might just give one under his or her assumption. The manager will be unhappy since it is not an accurate figure, and moreover the assistant should not lie. However, it is another scenario when the "face theory" plays a role. To Chinese people, as well as Indians, not answering questions is a kind of shame and it is not allowed in their culture.
Problem Solving in the Modern World
Not only the culture but also social transformations play an important role in people's behavior towards problems. Chinese people, as well as other Asian population, are not as homogenous anymore, there are considerable differences among them.
We now can find a Chinese person solving problems in an American way and an American person addressing conflicts in an Indian approach. The world itself as well as its cultural behavior has become more integrating.
Thanks to more understanding, effective and efficient way of communicating, people throughout the world tends to better understand and tolerate differences in each culture.
Cross Cultural Dining Etiquette
The world we live in is filled with diversity. Today's mutual reliant international marketplace and the cross-cultural differences play a very key role, which deserves further attention. It may propel your business endeavor to success when you are aware of it, or it also can drive you hopelessly to failure when you ignore it.
Ignorance leads to misinterpretations and sometimes, even offense. With lack of knowledge of world cultural differences, your career reputation can be easily ruined. To avoid such negative repercussions, the global traders in the twenty first century need to build a better comprehension and appreciation on this issue.
One of the most remarkable cross cultural differences reflects on the dinner table. Dining etiquette perfectly represents versatile social behavior under various cultural background. An appropriate dining etiquette performance can help international business people set up a sound and reliable image to his/her business partners.
According to British scholar Neil Payne (2007), the cross cultural dining etiquette can be observed from the points below:
Seating. Is there a protocol as to who sits where? Should one wait to be seated? Is it acceptable etiquette for men or women to sit next to one another?
Eating. What utensils, if any, are used? Is it a knife and fork, hands or chopsticks? Is there any etiquette around using them?
Body language. How should one sit? Is it bad etiquette to rest elbows on the table? If seated on the floor, what is the correct position?
Conversation. Is the meal the proper place to engage in conversation? If so, is discussing business appropriate?
The food. What foods are common to eat? Is it good etiquette to compliment the cook and how? Does one finish everything on the plate? Is it polite to ask for more?
Home-restaurant. What differences in etiquette or protocol would there be? Does one take a gift to the home? Who pays the bill at a restaurant?
According to Neil Payne's research (2007), cross cultural differences appear among various table manners with their distinctive international backgrounds. Here are some examples:
Mothers in the west always convince their children to finish up their dinner plate since there are starving children in Asia. On the contrary, in China if you finish everything on your plate, you will only put the host into embarrassment. He or she may feel guilty for not preparing enough food to accommodate the guest.
The ancient superstition is much involved into Chinese dining taboos. Such as:
Never point your chopsticks toward others at the dinner table because it is impolite.
Never stick your chopsticks onto the rice bowl since it is similar to the offering, which may attract spirits.
Properly consume your fish plate. Fish is normally cooked and presented to the table as a whole (with head, tail, and all the bones) in China. When you finish the upper half of the fish, you never turn the fish over. You simply need to carefully remove the whole bone skeleton and then eat the under half of the fish. This old taboo relates to the fisherman's terminology. Flipping over the fish in Chinese language has the same pronunciation as sinking the boat. Still many Southern Chinese people living along the coastline believe turning over the fish will bring bad luck.
It is offending to place the teakettle mouth pointing to any guest at the table. When you receive tea pouring from the host, you will bend your fingers (index and middle) gently and knock three times on the table to show appreciation. One cup of tea must be divided into three sips and never gulp the whole cup at once.
France is world famous for its gourmet food and all French chefs have total confidence in themselves. It is very annoying almost insulting to the chefs in France to see customers adding condiments to a dish sometimes even before tasting. During the dinning time you need to keep both of your hands visible to show the courtesy. It is not impolite to put your bread directly on the tablecloth since a uncommon tool ramasse miettes (a small table sweeper) is still in use in many of the French restaurants. When eating shellfish, it is perfectly normal to use an empty shell to open the others, but never litter the shell, or put any food waste into the ashtray. When you finish eating, you can put your knife and fork in the middle of your plate. And it is highly acceptable to use toothpicks at the dinner table. However you need to use the other hand to cover your mouth while one of your hands picks. As common sense to most French people, after 3p.m. or 4p.m.coffee is usually not available in the restaurants.
In Germany, guests who attend the dining occasion should remain standing until hosts or hostesses indicate where they may be seated. And the table manners follow the continental way, fork in left hand and knife in right hand. It will be considered an impolite manner to start eating before the host or hostess signals to do so. It is also a bad etiquette to rest elbows on the table.
Sometimes in Germany, trying to cut food with the fork is commonly considered a compliment to the cook by showing it is tender. During dining time everything, in the plate, should be eaten.
When you finish eating, indicate the signal by lying the fork and knife parallel across the right hand side of the plate.
In Japan, the most honored guest sits at the centre of the table furthest from the door and begins eating first, to show his or her privileges. As in China, the Japanese never point the chopsticks and never pierce food with them. They always rest them on the Chopstick Rest when breaking for drink or chat.
To show your enjoyment, try a bit of everything evenly. Do not set your personal preferences on any certain dish. During dining time, conversations are subdued.
United State of America
United States of America has a relatively casual etiquette for dining. However, you still need to follow certain rules.
The fork is held in either the left or right hand and is used for eating. When using the knife, the fork will be switched to the other hand. To continue eating, the fork will be switched back to the other hand. But if you are more comfortable eating in the continental manner it will not offend anyone.
Foods or drinks may be refused if you feel full or simply do not want any more. It will not offend anyone.
Remember in the United States, there are many foods that can be eaten by hand. The safe and smart way is to learn from the host or the hostess.
Breads in India are served during dinner. They can, and should, be used to gather food, sauces, and curries. When food is served on a banana leaf, then the proper way is to close the leaf by folding it top half over bottom half. You have to be careful to do this the correct way because doing the opposite way is considered rude and only done in solemn occasions, like after a funeral.
Most importantly, like in every country in the world, always thank the host with a smile of pleasure.
In many Middle East countries guests are treated honorably with priority choice of meats - head, eyes, etc. Food is eaten with right hand only, the left hand is considered not hygienic.
Meat is torn by holding down the piece against the dish and ripping off a desired amount with forefinger, and thumb pressed together. Do not be afraid of making a mess.
If you are finished eating, then leave some food in your plate otherwise it will be refilled immediately. Again, it is proper etiquette to compliment the host on the food and his or her hospitality.
The above are a few examples of cross cultural diversities in dining etiquette. It is prudent to try and clarify some facts about the dining etiquette of the country you schedule to pay a business visit. By doing so you present yourself to the best of your ability and ensure the success of your business trip. An elegant performance of dining etiquette may illustrate a positive impression to your business partners and colleagues, and win yourself trust among them.
Building a mutual comprehension between cultures is more important than ever. Without differences or variety among people on the globe, the ability to learn and grow would be limited.
The objective of this topic is to minimize misunderstandings among business partners. In this era of globalization, business people should pay more attention to the examination of versatile cultural behaviors and the delicate way in which culture affects business practices. To companies which determine to do business with other countries involvement, a greater respect and comprehension to its related culture will be required, and a better understanding of cultural facts should facilitate business performances.
Business has become more international, communicating across nationalities and cultures remarkably improves productivity, promotes more balanced and harmonious business environments. It has diminished intercultural gaps also overcome language barriers. If you know what people truly value and understand what their attitudes are, you won't offend your business partners by accident, and it will eventually accumulate your chances for business success. In today's world business perspectives, the winners are not those who study only the market they deal with even if it's important, but those who study people they interact with.