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"Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands?"

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12/1/06 Interview with Terri Morrison

Getting Through Customs
3510 Goshen Road
Newtown Square, PA 19073

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Content of Her Book

  1. Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands covers a wealth of information across a spectrum of more than 60 countries; broadly, it covers cultural tips and business practices, including what gestures to make and what gifts to bring.
  2. The book evolved from an online database and utilizes the same logical organization; each country is broken down into the same practical categories such as business protocols and customs that can help you avoid faux pas.
  3. Much of the information can also be accessed by subscription on the web site; enterprise-side access is the most cost effective way for corporations to subscribe; single practitioners should first try the demo to be sure the web site fits their needs; data about holidays is free.
  4. In early 2007, three regional versions will be published; those will include some countries that are not in the big book.
  5. Calling a person by the wrong last name or making some other blunder can waste all that and sink a deal and waste the time and money spent developing the lead; make sure that you do your research before you meet the prospect.
Useful Topics

  1. "Country Background" is the first place many book users go to learn about the history and viewpoint of the people.
  2. "Tips on Doing Business" provides practical highlights, but "Cultural Orientation," based on research, delves more deeply into why people behave the way they do.
  3. "Cognitive Style" would tell you that Finns, for example, look for a lot of statistical evidence, but Brazilians want to like you as a person.
  4. The section on "Business Practices" covers everything from negotiating to business entertaining-knowing about food taboos and predilections is helpful to know before taking clients to dinner.
  5. "Protocol" will tell you if you should shake hands, bow or kiss on the cheek; what gestures are appropriate; what dress is appropriate-the Swiss dislike ostentation, so wearing minimal jewelry would be advisable.
Unintentional Missteps

  1. Hispanic business people often have two last names; in that culture, who one is and whom one is related to are especially important-calling them only by the second last name (their mother's) is insulting.
  2. While in negotiations with Arafat and Netanyahu, former Secretary of State Albright broke a taboo by kissing those leaders of theocratic states-they are not supposed to touch the opposite sex.
  3. At the last inaugural balls, President Bush and his daughter made gestures of the Texas A&M "hook 'em-horns" sign, but in the Netherlands that is a satanic symbol.
More on Cognitive Styles

  1. Everyone is continually bombarded with data, but the process of selecting what data to accept is often influenced by people's culture.
  2. The Japanese for example, look at the entire situation-a negotiation is one long, circular process, not a series of small bites of data; they tend to come in a group and to need consensus.
  3. Cognitive styles may be characterized as open-minded or close-minded; decisions may be fate-driven, feeling-driven or fact-driven; the book's research on cognitive style corroborates what is presented.
  4. Learning ahead of time what gives people anxiety and how people make decisions (quickly or not) can help you in your business practices.
Close-Mindedness vs. Open-Mindedness

  1. The US and Canada tend to be close-minded, interpreting data to be clearly black or white; for example, the US is monotheistic and reluctant to accept information from other countries perceived as not having good data.
  2. Truly open-minded people consider all propositions equally and welcome different opinions; they are very comfortable with change and risk; examples of such countries are Sweden and Finland.
Cues for a Middle Eastern Relationship

  1. If trying to sell a multi-million-dollar house to a male client from the Middle East, be cognizant that everything is driven by relationship; an introduction from someone respected in the culture would be important.
  2. Understand Islamic behavioral patterns so that you do not try to call on a day or time of worship; know what foods are prohibited; do not inquire about his wife or daughter.
  3. Understand that the Koran prohibits charging interest, so a loan must be structured so that no interest is delineated in the contract.
  4. If the client is an orthodox Jew, know that he cannot shake hands with the opposite sex.
International Business Practices

  1. 1. In Singapore, laws on bribery and corruption are very strict, so sending a small gift or even an invitation to an event may be interpreted wrongly.
  2. The web site tracks corruption all around the world; data are updated yearly on which countries are most and least corrupt.
  3. The spectrum of networking is very different in different countries; in Latin America-Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica-business is conducted through entertainment and connections; gifts there are common-as they are in Japan; in Latin America, you should never decline an invitation.
  4. The language conventions of Asians are very different from the West's; they never interrupt; a long pause after one party finishes speaking may wrongly be interpreted as a negative response instead of the intended sign of respect and thoughtful consideration of what was said.
How to Recover from a Faux Pas

  1. Upon realizing your mistake, offer a sincere apology; apologies in Asian cultures are very important-you cannot go back to do business without one; the CEO of CitiGroup Japan had to appear on national television there to bow and express his contrition for the company's misrepresenting financial transactions.
  2. Using a highly-placed, third-party intermediary is customary for many environments; having a negotiator avoids confronting anyone face to face; very few countries prefer one-to-one meetings and blunt conversation to resolve a problem.
Favorite Places on the Web

  1. The US Centers for Disease Control site is key before traveling abroad; it addresses issues of safety, security and medical requirements.
  2. The US Dept. of State site gives information about passport and visa requirements and country background data; the site also issues travel advisories.
  3. gives a perspective on world news that is different from the US view; it offers a more open-minded look plus good language training programs.
Contact Information for Terri Morrison:

(v) 610- 725-1040
(f) 801-516-8774

Real Estate Sites & Tools in this Briefing:
US Centers for Disease Control:
US Dept. of State travel site: