No, that doesn’t refer to the choice you make at the hotel bar regarding how big your scotch should be. It refers to mastering the art of greeting friends and colleagues when traveling throughout the world. In today’s global society, the art of the greeting is getting ever more complex.
Take for example a trip I took a few years ago to Dublin. While in Dublin I met up with other colleagues from my company who were attending separate meetings in our offices. At a dinner there were 8 of us in attendance:
- An American living in America (me)
- A Brit who had grown up in Japan, and currently lived in Dubai
- A Dutchman living in Holland
- A Dutch woman living in the UK
- A Brit, actually living in the UK
- A Frenchwoman living in the UK
- A Croatian, living in France
- An American, living in Holland
In other words, what amazing diversity at the dinner table—only three of the people actually lived in their home country!
Facing that kind of diversity can be daunting. And the greeting is the most challenging of all.
Yep, I am referring to is the dreaded kiss hello/goodbye. For example, Americans are a reserved lot, we save the kiss for our best relations. Generally it’s an air kiss to the cheek merely to symbolize the we are hip. Russians do the triple kiss, and its full contact to the cheek with a reasonably close embrace, many Europeans have a variation on the double kiss.
So the central question I am left with is: how the hell am I supposed to know what do at my dinner in Dublin?
It’s a story and theme I will return to over time as I think it offers an interesting parable for global marketing and building global relationships. For some, this is a simple affair, they inherently “know” just what to do and how do to it, but for the rest of us, it’s extremely intimidating.
In a meeting today with our European marketing team (a Dutch man and women from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary, I again faced this, and came through it unscathed. I discovered over the years its easier to let them lead! And as an American, sometimes I think that is important when considering marketing in other countries. While it seems obvious that what we do in America doesn’t always work overseas and its amazing to me how many people don’t get that.
So what did I do as we said our goodbyes years ago in Dublin?
I shook hands with the British woman, the Americanand the Dutchman living in Holland, and the Brit living in the UK. The Frenchwoman and I did the double kiss (safe bet with the French) and I ducked the Dutch and Croatian women by being too far away to do anything other than wave goodbye!
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