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International Success Tips
by Kimberley Roberts


Doing business around the world has been streamlined with telephone calls, e-mails and video conferences. But the importance of a personal meeting with associates and clients will never be replaced by modern technology.


At times the meeting will be between, or among, trusted colleagues who have done business together for years. At other times, a first meeting will be taking place with the hope of establishing a beneficial and rewarding relationship.


When a meeting is scheduled with people from other cultures, it’s wise to be cognizant of that culture’s protocol. To establish a professional tone for the meeting and make a good first impression, become familiar with the standard greeting for the country, or the cultural group within the country, you will be meeting.


The handshake is used as a greeting throughout the world. In western countries it’s the standard, and in other countries it has replaced the more traditional greeting. For countries that may use the handshake, in addition to a traditional greeting, it is nice to know both. Then, when greeting the other person, pause and wait for a clue as to which greeting you should use.


Men are safe in extending a hand to another man. However, the rules may change when a man greets a woman; or a woman greets a man, or even another woman. Following are several tips that will simplify the greeting and give you some helpful information.

- Germany and the United States have firm handshakes, with the German being very brief and the US being about three to four seconds


- France, Guatemala, and Japan have more limp handshakes


- Singapore has a longer handshake (10+ seconds)


- Women should be the first to offer a hand for a handshake in New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, or Taiwan


- In South Korea, more respect is shown by cupping your left hand under your right forearm, as if supporting your right forearm during the hand shake


- A traditional bow may be used in China, Hong Kong, or Japan


- Traditional greeting in India is namaste -place the hands in a praying position, palms together with the fingers just beneath the chin, bow and say namaste


- Traditional greeting in Thailand places the hands, palms together, in front of the chin, bow the head to touch the top of the fingers, and say Sawasdee - the word that means “Good Luck”


- Women may greet other women by patting the right forearm or shoulder in Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, or Panama


- Countries with Hindu and Muslim religions forbid public contact between men and women. When in these countries, follow your host’s cue to determine if religious tradition will be followed.


- Women should wait for a man to offer his hand first in a Hindu or Muslim country, if a western handshake is going to be used

As you can see from this list, even people in countries that have religious beliefs forbidding public contact between men and women may use the handshake as a business greeting when meeting a businessman or businesswoman.


To be professional each time you meet with people from countries or cultures that have these strong religious beliefs, don’t assume the handshake will be the appropriate greeting. Anticipate the situation and what greeting options may be needed. Then in a relaxed and confident manner, follow the clue from the meeting’s host.


Feedback Requested

Giving and receiving gifts properly is an important part of international business. Therefore, Kimberley would very much like to receive input from our global newsletter subscribers on gift-giving suggestions for their country. Please send your ideas directly to







. . .


For the success of a business trip to a foreign country it is important to understand the fundamentals of creating positive relationships.


This article by Kimberley Roberts can help you make your overseas trip a success.





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