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A World Guide to Good Manners. How not to behave badly abroad

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Travelling to all corners of the world gets easier and easier. We live in a global village, but how well do we know and understand each other? Here is a simple test. Imagine you have arranged a meeting at four o'clock. What time should you expect your foreign business colleagues to arrive? If they're German, they'll be bang on time. If they're American, they'll probably be 15 minutes early. If they're British, they'll be 15 minutes late, and you should allow up to an hour for the Italians.

When the European Community began to increase in size, several guidebooks appeared giving advice on international etiquette. At first many people thought this was a joke, especially the British, who seemed to assume that the widespread understanding of English customs. Very soon they had to change their ideas, as they realized that they had a lot to learn about how to behave with their foreign business friends.

For example:

The British are happy to have a business lunch and discuss business matters with a drink during the meal; the Japanese prefer not to work while eating. Lunch is a time to relax and get to know one another, and they rarely drink at lunchtime.

The Germans like to talk business before dinner; the French like to eat first and talk afterwards. They have to be well fed and watered before they discuss anything.

Taking off your jacket and rolling up your sleeves is a sign of getting down to work in Britain and Holland, but in Germany people regard it as taking it easy.

American executives sometimes signal their feelings of ease and importance in their offices by putting their feet on the desk whilst on the telephone. In Japan, people would be shocked. Showing the soles of your feet is the height of bad manners. It is a social insult only exceeded by blowing your nose in public. In Japanese have perhaps the strictest rules of social and business behavior. Seniority is very important, and a younger man should never be sent to complete a business deal with an older Japanese man. The Japanese business card almost needs a rulebook of its own. You must exchange business cards immediately on meeting because it is essential to establish everyone's status and position. When it is handed to a person in a superior position, it must be given and received with both hands, and you must take time to read it carefully, and not just put it in your pocket! Also the bow is a very important part of greeting someone. You should not expect the Japanese to shake hands. Bowing the head is a mark of respect and the first bow of the day should be lower than when you meet thereafter. The Americans sometimes find it difficult to accept the more formal Japanese manners. They prefer to be casual and more in-formal, as illustrated by the universal "Have a nice day!" American waiters have a one-word imperative "Enjoy!" The British, of course, are cool and reserved. The great topic of conversation between strangers in Britain is the weather unemotional and impersonal. In America, the main topic between strangers the search to find a geographical link. "Oh, really? You live in Ohio? I had an uncle who once worked there."

"When in Rome, do as Romans do."

Here some final tips for travellers.

In France you shouldn't sit down in a cafe until you've shaken hands with everyone you know.

In Afghanistan you should spend at least five minutes saying hello.

In the Middle East you must never use the left hand for greeting, eating, drinking, or smoking. Also, you should take care not to admire anything in your host's home. They will feel that they have to give it to you.

In Russia you must match your hosts drink for drink or they will think you are unfriendly.

In Thailand you should clasp your hands together and lower your head and your eyes "When you greet someone.

In America you should eat your hamburger with both hands and as quickly as possible. You shouldn't try to have a conversation until it is eaten.

Comprehension check

Read the article again and answer the questions. Discuss the questions in pairs.

1. Which nationalities are the most and the least punctual?

2. Why did the British think that everyone understood their customs?

3. Which nationalities do not like to eat and do business at the same time?

4. "They (the French) have to be well fed and watered". What or who do you normally have to feed and water?

5. An American friend of yours is going to work in Japan. Give some advice about how he/she should and shouldn't behave.

6. Imagine you are at a party in (a) England (b) America. How could you begin a conversation with a stranger? Continue the conversation with your partner.

7. Which nationalities have rules of behavior about hands? What are the rules?

8. Why is it not a good idea to ...

... say that you absolutely love your Egyptian friend's vase.

... go to Russia if you don't drink alcohol.

... say "Hi! See you later!" when you're introduced to someone in Afghanistan.

... discuss politics with your American friend in a McDonald's.

Discussion

1. Do you agree with the saying "When in Rome, do as Romans do"? Do you have a similar saying in your language?

2. What are the "rules" about greeting people in your country? When do you shake hands? When do you kiss? What about when you say goodbye?

3. Think of one or two examples of bad manners. For example, in Britain it is considered impolite to ask people how much they earn.

4. What advice would you give somebody coming to live and work in your country?

Negotiating

Most of your activities as managers involve negotiating. If you're a skilled manager you're probably a skilled negotiator. Successful negotiation is where you get what you want, and the other party is happy with what he gets, where the result is, "I win, you win". This is certainly true of the variety of negotiations, that you carry on every day with your colleagues, your boss, your subordinates. Losers are not the easiest people to have to go on working with. A better deal is always possible for both parties if both approach the negotiations as a cooperative enterprise.

There are, of course, many people who would be quite glad to have you as a loser. So plan your strategy carefully.

Decide first of all what you want to get from the negotiations.

What is the best result you could hope for?

What is the best result you could realistically expect?

What is the minimum you accept?

Of the different points at issue, which are the most important to you? Which are the most important to the other party?

What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are theirs?

How can you strengthen your position and weaken theirs - before the negotiations begin?

What information do you need? Where can you get it?

There are a number of factors that affect the negotiating process. Your attitude is one. The higher your aspirations, the better your results. The more committed and determined you are, the better you will perform. The attitude of the other party is important too. It's up to you to alter his expectations, to encourage him to be satisfied with the less than he originally hoped for.

At the centre of all negotiating is the question of power - and it comes from a variety of sources.

It comes from knowledge - the more you know about the other party. The more power you will have.

It comes from time - the more time you have to negotiate. The more power you have to negotiate with.

But most of all power is in the mind.

All of these factors - attitudes, personal needs, sources of power - should be considered before you sit down at the negotiating table.

When the negotiations actually begin, it's often a good tactic to start off with a firm demand. Don't bargain unless you have to. This approach needs to be taken carefully. Present it in a way that doesn't rouse hostility. There are a variety of ways of doing this.

You can refer to the policy of your company. Your company has always done things this way.

You can refer to regulations, to your published price lists. And allow him to save face - give him time to express his views.

Negotiation, however, usually involves making concessions. But before you start making concessions, find out what the other party wants. Don't let him know what you'll be satisfied with, until you've found out what he'll be satisfied with. Encourage him to present all his demands first, and try not to reveal your own. Then try to secure his agreement to each of your demands, starting with the most important. Don't give concessions easily. The longer you hold out, the more likely you are to get something in exchange.

Don't be afraid of reaching a deadlock. Be prepared to stop the negotiations and to start again. A deadlock can be a useful tactic, but if you decide it's up to you to get the negotiations going again, do it in a way that doesn't reduce your credibility. Say that you want to consult your boss, then come back and say that your boss has suggested a different approach. Or suggest that you both approach the problem from a different angle, and get his agreement that you both do this, so that he sees this as a joint effort to get this moving , rather than a concession on your part.

Throughout the negotiations, try to keep the relationship friendly. It's easier to get agreement you want when the other party is well-disposed towards you. Negotiation is about rational choices and logical decisions, but it helps if he likes you. Maintain your integrity. You may often hide things from the other party, and you may allow him to from wrong impressions, but it's essential that trust is maintained.

Internet

The best way to think of the Internet, or Net as it is often called, is as a vast global network of networks connecting computers across the world. These networks range from government departments and industrial and educational communication systems down to the personal online service providers such as CompuSeve, Delphi, etc.

At present, more than 33 million people use the Internet and over three million computers worldwide are linked in. They use the Net for transferring data, playing games, socializing with other computer users, and sending e-mail (electronic mail).

The Internet can be divided into five broad areas:

Electronic mail

E-mail is much faster than traditional or snail mail because once the message is typed out, it arrives in the electronic mailbox of the recipient within minutes or seconds. Anything that can be digitized (pictures, sound, video) can be sent, retrieved, and printed at the other end. This is efficient, convenient, and saves trees!

Information sites

This is perhaps the fastest growing area of the Internet as more and more people put their own information pages on line. One thing that computers do very well is process vast amounts of information very fast, so, by specifying a key world or phrase, the computer can then search around the Net until it finds some matches. These information sites are usually stored on big computers that exist all over the world. The beauty of the Net is that you can access all of them from your home, using your own PC.

The World Wide Web

The World Wide Web, usually referred to as WWW or 3W, is a vast network of information databases that feature text, visuals, sound, and even video clips. On the WWW you can do such things as go on a tour of a museum or art exhibition, see the latest images from outer space, go shopping, and get travel information on hotels and holidays. You can even view a hotel's facilities before deciding to book!

Usenet

Usenet is a collection of newsgroups covering any topic. Newsgroup allows users to participate in dialogues and conversations by subscribing free of charge. Each newsgroup consists of messages and information posted by other users. There are more than 10,000 newsgroups and they are popular with universities and businesses.

Telnet

Telnet programmes allow you to use your personal computer to access a powerful mainframe computer. If you are in academic, or just have a lot of number-crunching to do it can be useful and cost-effective.

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