Our Filipino exporters are realizing now that to be globally competitive it is not enough to know the latest preferences of the foreign buyers. It is equally important to know about the culture, the language and the history of the countrys of the foreign buyer.
In today’s multicultural and global business environment, the Filipino exporters as well as other businessmen dealing in the international business should be sensitive to the customs and cultural traits of the foreigners with whom they do business with. Business deals are possibly won or lost at literally the first greeting. Disregarding and ignoring these protocol practices in a global context would be disastrous. This being the situation, the cultural traits are in effect integral parts of business. This is the reason too why business is more than just business.
There are a thousand and one blunders in the world of international behavior that are committed every day not only in our country but in other countries as well.
It is important to learn about protocol, courtesies, comportment, and behavior. The key word etiquette is of French origin. The French phrase savior faire signifies being cool and composed. Exporters should also know about cultural stereo-types, about expectations, about idiosyncracies and about customs of their prospective and existing buyers.
What then is the profile of the international businessmen today? He must be multi-environment, multicountry, multicultural, and multifunctional. The business executive must learn how to make his foreign buyers/guests feel comfortable. Also to respect their protocol. In short, he must value “personal relationship.” Socializing, friendships, etiquette, grace, patience, protocol, and a whole list of other such cultural traits are indeed integral parts of business. Proving too that business is more than just business.
Here are some areas of protocol that make or make business deals: Handshaking and the art of introduction; entertaining and hosting; gift-giving, social drinking; dining and eating differences and peculiarities; taboos in conversation, greeting remarks; gestures and body languages; cultural stereotypes, business cards; the use of finest names; concern for time and punctuality; dressing properly; telephone etiquette; dealing with women in business; and the use of interpreters. Negotiating, entertaining and protocol are so interwoven and it is difficult to separate one from the other.
Not a few exporters and other businessmen are aware that there are some foreigners who do not eat pork because of their religion. Serving pork at a welcoming dinner for a foreign delegation from Saudi Arabia would be an embarrassing social blunder. Or giving as gifts to Japanese pocket knives. In the Japanese culture, the gesture of giving a knife as a gift can be insulting as the gift is a symbol of suicide. Social blunders can be avoided by researching on the customs, habits, protocol of the countries of the foreigners the exporters are dealing with.
If the exporters do not update themselves with the current international behavior, their business may suffer even if the products they are offering abroad are competitive in terms of design, quality, prices, delivery dates, and service.
As someone once said: Etiquette is learning to yawn with your mouth closed.” A business writer also said: “Etiquette or protocol or comportment or convention or accepted rules or whatever you call it is woven into our business life like an intricately handcrafted Persian rug. Remove a few key threads and the whole pattern can be weakened or even destroyed. We must master the technique of genuine courtesy.”
One important aspect of business protocol is the exchange of business card. Business cards must be exchanged with respect. The Japanese consider the exchanging of business cards as solemn ceremony.
A Japanese businessman will certainly be offended of the recipient of the business card immediately puts the card in his pocket; or if the recipient writes on it in the presence of the giver. In Japanese the process of exchanging business card is called ‘meishi.’
Handshake is the most frequently used business greeting. Some people squeeze another person’s hand so hard. Others just provide limp handshakes. In not a few cases, some receive a bone crushing handshake. Today the rules for men and women in handshaking are the same. A firm handshake but not a bone-crushing one is proper. But there are many who favor the limp handshake.
Another ticklish issue in etiquette is the use of first names. There are many foreigners who are very formal in their business dealings for the first names. The Englishmen are formal people and jumping to a first-name basis with them would create an unpleasant first impression.
Businessmen especially international businessmen must know about business etiquette so they can present themselves to their best advantage. Also because the world is changing and the rules of behavior have been changing.
Have a joyful day!
(For comments/reactions please send to Ms. Villafuerte’s email: [email protected]).