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Do's and Dont's in Cultural Awareness Training

April 05, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 108

I get the dilemma nearly every cultural awareness training: Would you give me some Do's & Dont's on this specific region?

This can be a really valid question also as an obvious one from somebody being employed in an international setting. We'd like simple and short solutions and solutions to the issues we encounter.

However... Do's and Dont's issues can be really the most challenging one's to respond to.

Here is why

Do's and Dont's are highly contextual. And therefore a particular Do will be very productive and appropriate in one scenario (with the exact same "cultural players" present), while it turns into an overall total Don't and un-acceptable in a different scenario (with the exact same "cultural players" present). This holds true for any Don't changing into a Do as the context differs. Therefore it works or does not work both ways.

An Illustration

Picture the following setting: A European learns " how to do Business with Japanese " on a particular cultural awareness training. Amongst the items he/she learns is how to greet his/her Japanese counter part in the traditional Japanese approach and the ways to accept his business card. He/she learns that a deep sincere bow will be the "Do" to do and accepting the Japanese business card the traditional Japanese way. He/she also learns the best way to present a business card "Japanese style": presenting it in a manner that it could be read right away without the need of flipping it around (yet an other Do).

On the other side, "our" Japanese counter part will go to a cultural awareness training about how to deal with Europeans. He learns that bowing is not the technique to greet somebody, but shaking hands is (in this case the European Do). In addition he is told that handling business cards is not a big thing in Europe, and that business cards function more like a piece of facts for future reference and that they usually do not carry the same weight as they do in Japan.

They Meet

When our Japanese and European finally meet, simultaneously the Japanese sticks out his hand whilst the European bows forward. The effect: the European receives a hand in his/her face while bowing. Nice... (producing another cultural dilemma: how to apologize!)


Certainly this is an overstated example, but hopefully you are aware what I mean with Do's and Dont's shifting in various contexts and circumstances back and forth.

Inside a Japanese framework bowing is a Do. In a European context shaking hands is a Do. But since the situation has changed (a blend of European and Japanese Do's and Dont's) it isn't really always well-defined what to Do or to Don't.

My advice is to not constantly choose the Do's and Dont's which you might have learned from an other culture, but to adopt a more flexible strategy. And if there are things you're unsure about or don't understand, it hardly ever hurts to ask the other party if he/she can clarify what is happening or what should be done within the given context.


A very good publication about this subject matter, that I can fully highly recommend is Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands (The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More than 60 Countries) 2nd (second) edition. There are numerous specific "versions of this book available. I suggest you shop around Amazon and take your pick!

Do you have any Worldwide Do's and Dont's that you would like to mention? Cultural Awareness Training

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Source: EzineArticles
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