You Know the Culture of Time?
by Kimberley Roberts
business relationships across cultural groups and geographic
boundaries develop over time by paying attention to small,
but important, details. One of these details is your arrival
time for a scheduled business meeting, as the value of punctuality
varies throughout the world.
some cultures, such as the Chinese, and countries like Germany,
being punctual is so important that you will personally insult
your client if you don’t arrive on time. He or she will “lose
many other countries where punctuality is expected and valued,
you will always want to be on time. Even though your client
won’t be personally insulted if you were tardy, you will
only gain a professional reputation and build a successful
relationship by always being punctual.
parts of the world, the attitude towards time and punctuality
is more relaxed, as in the Latin countries of Central and South
America. However, don’t let this relaxed local attitude
undermine your professionalism. In most cases, to be credible
you’re expected to arrive on time. Your client may or
may not meet with you at the appointed time, but this is not
meant to be insulting or disrespectful. It’s just a mind
set that “being on time” is relevant to what else is
happening that day. Relationships are more important than the
clock. If it’s time for your meeting, but your client
is currently engaged in a conversation with another person,
that conversation and relationship will take priority for the
moment. Only when that conversation has concluded will your
client arrive to meet with you.
the Middle East it’s culturally appropriate to keep the “other
person waiting.” Knowing this, you will arrive on time,
remain relaxed, perhaps catch up on some reading, and be gracious
when you are finally ushered into the meeting. Becoming agitated
over being kept waiting will not change the situation, and
only put you in a bad frame of mind when the meeting does take
interesting side note is the fact that countries within the
former USSR are in transition regarding punctuality. Under
the old Soviet regime working for the state, a person was
employed for life, so there wasn’t any built-in motivation
to be punctual since you couldn't be fired. This lack
of awareness for being punctual can carry over into schedules
today, with a Russian client’s late arrival of an hour
especially in Belarus, Russia, and the Ukraine you are expected
to always be punctual. It will adversely impact your credibility
if you’re not, even if your client arrives after the
important to be aware of the countries in which the local
customs don’t include being punctual for meetings.
In these cases you’ll need to leave ample time
between appointments, and at times, only schedule one
appointment per day. This type of scheduling will eliminate
the impolite and embarrassing position of having to cancel
a previously scheduled appointment because your first
meeting runs over the time you’ve allocated.
Townsend Hall PhD, Writer/Editor adds that, “France is
most definitely a 'polychronic' culture and punctuality
is low on the list of priorities. In fact most people
expect a 15-minute delay and the further south you go
the longer that delay becomes. If you have a social invitation
it is actually quite impolite to turn up on time."
be cognizant that our world is filled with multi-national
companies. An Asian company with a manufacturing facility
in Guatemala may have an Asian cultural corporate environment.
Therefore, arriving on time for a meeting is imperative
even though Guatemala generally has a more relaxed attitude
the geographic location for a business meeting may not always
give a complete picture of what is expected from you. Learning
about the client’s corporate culture will also be important.
following list gives an overview regarding punctuality
for business meetings.
is Critical, Insulting if you are not on time
Germany, Hong Kong,Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore
is Highly valued, even at times a way of life
Bangladesh, Chile, China, Denmark, Germany,
Iran, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, New
a bit early), Norway, Romania, Singapore, South Africa,
Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Venezuela
is Important, expected and appreciated
Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech
Republic, El Salvador, England, Fiji, Finland,
Indonesia, Italy (especially in Northern Italy),
Ivory Coast, Philippines,
Qatar, Scotland, Sultanate of Oman, Switzerland,
Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United
is Expected, but the locals may arrive
Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Egypt,
El Salvador, France, Ghana (may not show up), Greece,
Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya,
Mexico, Middle East, Nicaragua, Panama (usually on
time for business
meetings), Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal,
Romania, Saudi Arabia (may have others at meeting),
Senegal, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan,
(may not show up)
more laissez faire
Caribbean, Columbia – except in larger cities,
France - southern region, Greece, Iceland, Ireland,
Lebanon, Morocco, Nigeria, Panama,
Delays in Latin American, Middle Eastern and African countries
are not uncommon
operates under the influence of corporate and country
cultures in many ways, both large and small. Even
regions within countries may differ. For instance, the southern
regions in France and Italy are more relaxed about time than
the northern regions. In Columbia, people are punctual in
the larger cities, but relaxed about time in other areas.
what influences your clients. Whatever the circumstance, it's
better to err on the side of being punctual, even in a culture
about time. A business meeting may be critical and your client
wants to know you're reliable. By paying attention to the details,
you'll be in a position to develop mutually beneficial,
Roberts publishes her weekly tips on appearance, behavior,
and communication known as Kim's
ClassyTips. She is a noted international
speaker, and writes articles on global business etiquette and
for a variety of publications.
by Barton Goldsmith Ph.D., CEO Goldsmith
understand how to effectively communication in the workplace,
you have to first understand some basic psychological truths
about how we, as people, tend to communicate.
we communicate to a person in the way they understand best,
that communication will be accepted and the team member will
respond faster and with more motivation. There are three types
of communicators. The first are the Visuals, those people that
take in and process information through their eyes. They also
prefer to think, or rather visualize with their mind’s
eye. To be effective with them, you need to use key words such
as "look, see, picture", etc. It is also valuable
to give them printed or written materials to go along with
what it is you are communicating. They prefer words that enable
them to picture things.
second type are Auditory communicators, these people use their
hearing to develop understanding. They talk to themselves in
words that their minds can listen to. They like words that
help them hear things. When talking with them, use key words
like "hearing, listening, sound", etc. These people
tend to process information quickly and are sometimes likely
to respond before you have finished talking.
the third type, are feeling people. It doesn’t matter
how things look or sound to them, it needs to feel right (not
necessarily good). Still, others imagine things in terms of
movement, feeling and action. The famous scientist Einstein
used this kinesthetic type of thinking when he formulated his
famous theory of relativity.
to how your team member communicates, they will use the key
words for their type in normal conversation. After you have
discovered how they communicate, speak with them in the same
manner. It will greatly enhance your interactions.
gain maximum interest, remember people are most interested
in anything that has to do with them. This isn’t egotistical
- it’s natural. Once you understand this, you can tailor
your communications so that you receive maximum interest.
Aware of Non-Verbal Communications
Our senses shape our thinking. We remember and think about things as
we saw, heard, or felt them. Some individuals and cultures stress one
kind of thinking more than others do, though all cultures use all of
them at one time or another.
may not be sending the message you intend when dealing across
cultures. You may be misinterpreting the sender’s message
because of cultural differences. It is important to be aware
of mixed messages and not make assumptions about the meaning
of non-verbal communications.
people believe that when they speak, their words are the primary
transporters of their thoughts. That’s just not the case.
Become aware of nonverbal messages to harness your communication
This final tip is one of the most powerful things you should
NOT do. If you get angry, you lose. When you "lose it" in front of
team members, their confidence is shaken and your credibility is undermined.
If you start to get over-excited, take 20 minutes to cool off and then
reconvene your meeting. It may help you to remember this quote by Thomas
Jefferson; "Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another
as to remain cool and unruffled under all circumstances."
an expert on business, he has given over 5,000 professional
presentations and has spoken to audiences worldwide. He can
be contacted through his web site at: www.BartonGoldsmith.com
by Stephen Taylor, Executive
Director of the International Business Center
encourage and receive questions submitted by
subscribers and visitors to the International
Business Etiquette, International
Business Center, International
Business Careers, and Geert
Hofstede Websites. We share some of these questions and
answers here for IBC Newsletter subscribers.
of the most rewarding aspects of heading the International
Business Center is answering the questions we receive from
our many Website visitors and IBC Newsletter subscribers.
there are a large number of resources we use in responding
to most questions, at times we need help. We have been very
fortunate in the support we receive from Newsletter subscribers
just like you.
is an example. We recently received a question from Teresa,
a student at DePaul University in Chicago, asking some specific
questions about business breakfast meetings in India. We immediately
access our database for subscribers in India and sent out a
message to several of them explaining our need for help in
gathering the information.
a result, we received a very nice reply from Meenakshi Chandra,
Human Resources at Ernst & Young Pvt. Ltd. in Calcutta.
Her answers were excellent, and not only did Teresa get her
help, but we posted Meenakshi's
information on the International Business Etiquette site
at the following location India
Business Breakfast so all Website visitors can now benefit
from Meenakshi's help.
don't be surprised if one morning you find a message in your
in box from the International Business
Center Staff asking for your help on a question
pertaining to the country in which you live and work.
Together, we can work toward a better
of international culture and improving global communications
Taylor is the Executive Director of the International Business
Center and has held executive management positions in international
marketing at leading global companies, including Henkel, Unilever,
and 3M. He received
his Masters of Arts Degree in International Management Studies
from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions
and Organizations Across Nations by
preparation for our October IBC Newsletter Special Report on
the challenges to Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions,
we are highlighting his recent release of
his classic work, first published in 1981 and an international
that explores the
differences in thinking and social action that exist among members
of more than 50 modern nations. Geert Hofstede argues that people
carry "mental programs" which are developed in the
family in early childhood and reinforced in schools and organizations,
and that these programs contain components of national culture.
They are expressed most clearly in the different values that
predominate among people from different countries.
Hofstede has rewritten, revised
and updated Cultures Consequences
for the twenty-first century, he has broadened the
book's cross-disciplinary appeal, expanded the coverage
countries examined from 40 to more than 50, reformulated
his arguments and a large amount of new literature has
been included. The book is structured
around five major dimensions: power distance; uncertainty
avoidance; individualism versus collectivism; masculinity
versus femininity; and long term versus short-term orientation.
this link for more information on Hofstede's Culture's
Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions
and Organizations Across Nations
Comments: Recently the work of Dr. Hofstede
has come under critical review. To learn more about this
subject go to http://geert-hofstede.internationalbusinesscenter.org/
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