Mind Your Manners: Cross Cultural Knowledge Can Keep You from Getting Egg on Your Face

It's not just what you say, but how you say it: you have to know the culture in order to succeed. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons and the U.S. Army.

Pop Quiz:  Which of these (if any) would you do at the dinner table? 

a) Slurp your noodles loudly.
b) Eat asparagus with your fingers rather than a knife and fork.
c) Reach across the table for a serving dish.
d) Burp loudly at the end of the meal. 

If you were inclined to say "none of the above," you're probably well-versed in American dining etiquette.  But in Japan, England, China and Turkey, respectively, these are totally appropriate table manners, according to a BBC etiquette guide

It turns out that spoken language is only part of what you need to make a good impression on people from foreign countries.  Other components of communication, including body language and cultural awareness, can also make or break an opportunity. 

Navy Seals used Translation by Design's cross-cultural training to efficiently learn the cultural norms and other tools that would enable them to succeed in the sensitive tasks they would undertake as they dealt directly with local people in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

If your organization or company sends its employees abroad, how can you be sure your representatives will know how to proceed in a new culture?  Receiving training by someone from that country who can explain its customs is the best possible preparation. 

TBD's Cross Cultural Training programs facilitate just such an opportunity.  By matching an organization's future travelers with natives from the destination country who provide them with targeted coaching, the programs help individuals representing their companies abroad be prepared to make good impressions, avoid offending their hosts, and accomplish the mission they came to fulfill. 

If you have stories of things you're glad you knew - or wish you'd known - before visiting another country, please share them below!