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Insights Magazine
Business Insights for Women
PNC INSIGHTS Magazine Spring/Summer 2014 Issue
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Etiquette varies across cultures, providing a challenge for globally mobile business leaders. These resources can help you prepare to make the best impression on international contacts.

In Mexico, business meals may be an early breakfast or a long lunch at which very little business is actually discussed. Business shouldn't be discussed in Japan until the formal exchange of business cards has been completed. And in much of the world, "yes" is a polite way of saying "no". These seemingly baffling customs - and hundreds more - are familiar to Americans who travel abroad for business. Whether you find them amusing or vexing, they're indicative of culture clashes that accompany increased globalization, and can lead to misunderstandings or even inadvertent offenses during business negotiations.

Since its publication in 1994, Terri Morrison's Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands, endorsed by members of the U.S. State Department, has provided a quick digest of cultural protocol in 60 countries in categories such as appointments, entertaining, greetings, dress, gifts and more. The book launched a franchise, with volumes specific to Asia, Europe and Latin America, and a thriving training business that boasts clients such as NATO and Microsoft.

The information is now available in an online database at KissBowShakeHands.com, where users can browse more than 60 country profiles filled with historical background, business customs, cognitive styles, cultural values and decision-making, protocol and common misunderstandings. Each also includes a Cultural IQ Quiz for further study. The database's companion site, GetCustoms.com, hosts free resources including a worldwide holiday guide (registration required) and useful articles.

Though probably the best known, Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands isn't the only online resource for global business practices. Cyborlink.com uses Geert Hofsteede cultural analysis scores for countries around the world to help businesspeople understand local culture by evaluating several cultural dimensions:

  • socioeconomic equality
  • gender equality
  • tolerance for uncertainty
  • the degree to which the society values individualism over group achievement and change over tradition

Another site, ExecutivePlanet.com, takes a "wiki" approach to cultural knowledge, compiling information contributed by users.

Armed with the proper information, you can be ready to conquer the world.


The article you read was prepared for general information purposes by McMurry. These articles are for general information purposes only and are not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting or financial advice. PNC urges its customers to do independent research and to consult with financial and legal professionals before making any financial decisions.These articles may provide reference to Internet sites as a convenience to our readers. While PNC endeavors to provide resources that are reputable and safe, we cannot be held responsible for the information, products, or services obtained on such sites and will not be liable for any damages arising from your access to such sites. The content, accuracy, opinions expressed, and links provided by these resources are not investigated, verified, monitored or endorsed by PNC.