Cultural Pitfalls That You Need to Know

  • Waving is a serious insult in Greece and in Nigeria, particularly if the hand is near someone’s face.
  • Making a “good-bye wave” in Europe can mean “No,” but it means “Come here” in Peru.
  • In China, last names are written first.
  • A man named Carlos Lopez-Garcia should be addressed as Mr. Lopez in Latin America, but as Mr. Garcia in Brazil.
  • Breakfast meetings are considered uncivilized in most foreign countries.
  • Latin Americans are on average 20 minutes late to business appointments.
  • Direct eye contact is impolite in Japan.
  • Don’t cross your legs in any Arab or many Asian countries – it’s rude to show the sole of your shoe.
  • In Brazil, touching your thumb and first finger – an American “Okay” sign – is the equivalent of raising the middle finger.
  • Nodding or tossing your head back in southern Italy, Malta, Greece and Tunisia means “No.” In India, this body motion means “Yes.”
  • Snapping your fingers is vulgar in France and Belgium.
  • Folding your arms across your chest is a sign of annoyance in Finland.
  • In China, leave some food on your plate to show that your host was so generous that you couldn’t finish.
  • Do not eat with your left hand when dining with clients from Malaysia or India.
  • One form of communication works the same worldwide. It’s the smile – so take that along wherever you go.

(source: Strategic Management Concepts, Fred R. David, 12th edition)

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Anil Salick

Anil Salick

Strategist, Facilitator, Coach, Writer. Shares about inspiration, leadership, critical thinking, fun, sports and current events.