Going international is the next step for a lot of companies. As with any business venture, domestic or international, do your homework. Make sure to research big cultural differences, as well as the small ones. Nonverbal communication is something that many companies overlook in their research, and it can make the biggest impression on your foreign counterpart. You can make or break a deal with a simple hand movement. Here are six common nonverbal signs to be careful with.
1. Giving business cards in Japan. It is extremely important that business cards are presented upon meeting. Do not simply take the business card and put it in your pocket. Inspect their card and note their title, as status is highly regarded in Japanese culture.
2. Do not use your left hand in the Middle East. This is the unclean hand, which is used for bodily hygiene. It is an extreme insult to give or extend your left hand to your business partner for any reason.
3. Make eye contact with the person you are clinking glasses with during a toast. In countries such as Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland you must make eye contact with each person as you “cheers” them. If you don’t it leads to bad luck.
4. Do not give an even number of flowers. In countries such as Russia, Latvia and France you should never give someone an even number of flowers. Ironically, in countries such as China, you should only give an even number of flowers.
5. Do not expose the bottom of your feet in Middle east and parts of Asia
. It is considered extremely rude to expose the bottom of your feet or the soles of your shoe, even if it is accidental while crossing your legs. Throwing your shoe at someone is even more insulting.
6. Do not use the “O.K” sign in parts of southern Europe and Brazil
. In Europe, it means that you are a zero. In Brazil, it is an insult and similar to calling someone an asshole. Either way, your host will not appreciate this gesture.
Of course, these are only six of many simple, seemingly harmless, gestures that can ruin a business deal or an entire business relationship. Make sure you know what gestures you should or should not do in the specific country you are working with. Things you should do in one country may be the exact opposite of what you should do in another country, such as giving an even or odd amount of flowers. Have you had any experiences with gestures that can get you in trouble in other countries?