In modern literature on business communication, English speaking people are advised thus: “when in France, speak English to your hosts. They know how to speak English and typically are appalled at the performance of foreigners trying to communicate in their tongue. “In Italy, people like to be called by their title, – and there are different titles depending on the individual’s field of study. In India also people generally like to be called by their title. Many of them are clearly fond of their titles. Especially honorary degrees conferred on them.
Cultural diversities are more prominently visible in nonverbal communication, especially in body language. For example, in North America people generally stand at some distance from each other while talking. In Middle Eastern states they come quite close together, while in Latin America they touch each other quite frequently while communicating. In the absence of that touch communication will be poorer. Shaking hands is very important now all over the world, but it is given very special importance in Persian/Afghan culture. No headway can be made without a firm, warm handshake. Most of the people in this region (of course, men and women separately) kiss each other on the cheek even in business environment, or when heads of states/political leaders meet.
Generally all over Europe people are supposed to be ‘properly’ dressed for every occasion and be punctual for any meeting. Americans are also very punctual, but in matters of dress they have a somewhat casual attitude. Many British people are also quite casual now. Scholars, scientists, academicians, artists are casual in matters of dress, but not the businessmen or business executives. They are almost always formally dressed. In India also we find business executives and bureaucrats rather particular in matters of dress. But, now, under the fast spreading influence of American culture, they are increasingly giving casual looks.
The people of the Far East Asian countries, especially those having been under Buddhist religion and culture, are conditioned to use certain prominent gestures, postures and rituals. Japanese, Koreans, Thais, Malaysians invariably bow before any visitor, have an ingratiating smile and move very softly. They have their own traditional colorful dresses, crockery, and tea – making and serving ceremony, flower arrangements, music etc. Indian ladies are expected and sometimes properly trained, to fold hands to greet a guest/visitor both at home and in business environment. Certain hand, finger and thumb movements/signals are understood and well received all over the world. For example, the ‘V’ signal made with the forefinger and middle finger to signify ‘victory’ is known and observed all over the world. But one must be careful about certain other signals that are likely to be misunderstood or differently interpreted in different cultures. For example the ‘Okay’ sign made by placing the thumb and forefinger in an ‘O’ shape is an obscene gesture in Latin America and the middle East, but a very common and positive gesture in the United States. This shows that, to a large extent, there are different meanings attached to similar signals in different cultures. Hence business people have to be constantly making serious efforts to acquaint themselves with the cultural aspects of nonverbal communication across national/regional boundaries. In the absence of such a constant effort to learn different cultures, there is the risk of communication breakdown or embarrassment.