Knowing Etiquettes Matters

Shivram Gangadhariah has sent an interesting article on how important it is to know diversity in human behaviors and etiquettes as these convey different meanings in different cultures.

We should be thankful to the wonderful diversity that exists in human behaviors and etiquette. Otherwise ours would have been monotonously boring world. But this diversity can create some problems. When it comes to etiquette, ignorance is certainly not bliss. Innocent actions may cause confusion or, worse still, may be construed as offensive.
Following examples, courtesy Economist.com, show some of the complexities arising from diverse etiquette. Germans prefer formal mode of address such as doctor or professor, stressing their educational credentials, so you shouldn’t make the mistake of using first-names in Germany. In England you are expected to be punctual to meetings, whereas in Italy being 5-10 minutes late is the norm. Attending a meeting in Dubai wearing a dish-dasha (a white ankle-length gown) and gutra (head cloth) is likely to draw criticism, as foreigners are not supposed to wear traditional Muslim clothing. At times, etiquette can be very subtle. In Japan, business cards should ideally be produced from the pocket of your jacket, and not from trouser pockets. Also, the business-card presented to you should be left in front of you, because putting it away is a signal that the meeting is over. Sometimes, ignorance of etiquettes can cause much more serious problems than mere confusion – it may offend your host and damage the relationship beyond repair. For example, in Hong Kong, gifting clocks to acquaintances is a strict no-no because it is thought to signify death.
First-time visitors to India who are ignorant of Indian behaviors may be bewildered to find their hosts shaking head side-to-side to indicate agreement or approval, because most of the rest of the world understands a sideways shake of the head to mean disagreement or disapproval. In our own Mysore, it is improper etiquette to say “naanu hogu thini” (“I am going”) while bidding good-bye – the correct expression is “naanu hogiddu baruthini” (“I am going & shall return”).
Do spend some time and effort learning local behaviors and etiquette before visiting a new place, as it will help you to some extent in becoming good brand ambassadors. It is not without reason that employers spend small fortunes educating their staff in behaviors and etiquette of the locals, before packing them off to foreign shores.

Posted in Blog, Media Coverage.