Back ] Home ] Next ]

AHI  Purposes and Objectives I Serving the Needs of the Hospitality Industry  I  Hospitality Advisory and Consulting Services  I    AHI International Hospitality Seminars and Advanced Courses  I  AHI Recent Publications I   Training Manuals  I    Recommended International Seminars I  Careers and Employment  I  Recruitment I   Meet  Max de Lafayette I   Meet AHI Vice Presidents I   AHI Officers I  Events I    Membership I    Recommended Books and Encyclopedias I    Post Your Resume I   Managing Your Career I   World Hospitality Events/Services I Humanitarian Support I CONTACT I




Internet Career Connection
Career Advice Articles

* The International Book of World Etiquette, Protocol and Refined Manners, Jean-Maximillien de Lafayette

Category: Success
Title: International success - acceptance!
Author: Ronna Archbold & Mary Harmon    
Company Name: The Five O'clock Club    
Phone: 800-538-6645    
Web Name: The Five O'clock Club

The Ford Motor Company launched a marketing campaign for the Ford Pinto in Brazil with hopes that sales would take off at a gallop. But enthusiasm turned to embarrassment when Ford executives discovered that "pinto" is a Portuguese slang term meaning "small penis." Ford quickly changed the name to Corcel, the Portuguese word for "horse."

Ford found out the hard way that learning customers' languages, including colloquialisms, is vital to international business success. But, just enrolling in a crash course in another language won't do the trick. As more and more companies go global, astute businesspeople are finding that knowledge about other countries' cultures and customs can enhance their working relationships--and thereby affect their businesses' bottom line.


Historically, Americans have been notorious for their ethnocentric approach to other cultures. Robert Louis Stevenson's poem "Foreign Children" from A Child's Garden of Verses, illustrates the point:

Little Indian, Sioux, or Crows,
Little frosty Eskimo,
Little Turk or Japanese,
Oh! Don't you wish that you were me?

While we have come a long way since the days when history books referred to "white man's burden" and "our little brown brothers," xenophobic concepts and language have been ingrained over the years, and often persist despite our best intentions. How many Americans, when learning of the Japanese custom of laying a beverage and sweet snack on loved ones' graves, can't help but think the practice senseless, silly, or just illogical? "Who is going to drink the beverage and eat the food?" they wonder. It might never occur to some Americans that our custom of placing flowers on graves may cause Japanese people to question how we suppose the deceased could smell them. In business, American corporations risk the same "Your way is inferior because it doesn't make sense to us," attitude. It is these underlying, often unconscious and unintentional beliefs that can undermine otherwise well-planned business efforts.


The key to insuring smooth international relationships, lies in cultivating an open-minded spirit of acceptance towards other people and cultures. This is in direct contrast to the missionary spirit, which carries overtones of preaching, converting and mastering, often with an arrogant and condescending attitude. While few people consciously approach international dealings with such a patronizing outlook, cultural mindsets can be firmly rooted. Since childhood, they've been ingrained through television, movies, jokes, textbooks, fairy tales, schools and religions. Attitudes communicated early in life can influence our beliefs in subtle ways. Take, for example, the children's stories and fairy tales which, in recent decades, portrayed heroes and heroines as blond-haired and blue-eyed and the "evil" characters as dark-complexioned.

Acceptance and appreciation for other cultures requires willingness to explore and cooperate. However, Americans' "can-do" tradition of independence can equate exploring and cooperating with merging and compromising, and thus weakening. In reality, exploration and cooperation can lead to strengthening, appreciation and acceptance. There need not be loss of identity or compromised values.

Americans have a disposition to arrogance. Author M. Scott Peck, M.D.


When the Thom McAn Company tried to sell footwear in Bangladesh, a riot ensued, injuring over 50 people. The company's executives had not known that Thom McAn's signature, printed inside the shoes resembled the Arabic script for "Allah." Outraged Muslims concluded that shoe manufacturers were trying to get Bangladeshis to desecrate the name of God by walking on His name--a double insult because the foot is considered unclean in their country. Had Thom McAn executives expended the effort to learn more about the culture to which they were marketing their products, they could have saved the time and money required later to polish up their image and rebuild goodwill.

Whether selling shoes in Bangladesh, or hosting Parisian fashion merchandisers in Chicago, American executives in today's global marketplace encounter many and varied cultural rules and protocols. Each has its own nuances, and the rules have many exceptions. In order to learn and stay current, corporations benefit by keeping consultants on retainer who are natives of the countries with whom they do business. Such people prove to be valuable resources for instruction in values and customs, as well as the business etiquette specific to each country, such as gift-giving, handshaking and table manners. Cross-cultural training goes a long way in developing the sensitivity, knowledge and appreciation for other cultures that are so vital to business success.

Studying up on other cultures can insure against corporate faux pas. When President and Mrs. Kennedy traveled to India in the 1960s, Mrs. Kennedy planned to present 68 photos of herself and the President, doubly-signed and encased in navy blue hand-tooled cowhide leather picture frames, complete with the Presidential seal stamped in gold. The frames were intended as a beautiful presentation of American craftsmanship to the royalty and Heads of State in India. But just before the trip, someone pointed out the significance of the sacred cow in India. Sterling silver frames were quickly substituted, just in time to avert insult to the hosts and embarrassment to the guests.

To conduct business with people of other cultures, put aside preconceived notions and strive to learn about the culture of your counterpart.


Suppose you are preparing to entertain a distant aunt whom you have not seen since childhood. You would take steps to insure her comfort, such as inquiring ahead of time about what she likes to eat and whether she follows any particular dietary guidelines. You would probably do some advance research to learn what special interests or hobbies she enjoys, and whether there are any conversational topics about which she is particularly sensitive or on which she holds strong feelings. As business host to your foreign counterparts, it behooves you to do your homework in much the same way on other cultures, their diets and customs. Suppose that you are picking up an international businessman at the airport and then taking him to dinner before dropping him off at his hotel. He enters your car and immediately lights a cigarette. Because you have studied up on his culture, you know that his country does not have laws regulating smoking, and that it is not considered rude to smoke without first asking a host's permission. As you pull up to the restaurant, you might gently inform your guest that your city does not permit smoking in restaurants and in business offices, and that most people expect guests in their homes to ask permission.

There is no conceivable human action which custom has not at one time justified and at another condemned. Joseph Wood Krutch, author and scholar


Respect for other people and cultures is critical if businesses are to flourish in the global marketplace. Anything less puts interactions at risk of seeming insincere, condescending and manipulatory. Executives who approach their international counterparts as equals, and expend the effort to learn all they can about their cultures, will find the commitment pays off in more comfortable and profitable business relationships.


These tools will help boost confidence, whether traveling or hosting:

* Contact the Embassy for the country to which you are travelling. For addressees and phone numbers, call the country's embassy in Washington, D.C. Available on The Internet

* ECHO: EuroDicautom. The EuroDicautom is a translating dictionary. Type in a word in one language and it will automatically be translated into another language. A product of the European Union, it translates between European languages. Access: http//

* Calendar Creator. This Web page will prepare a year-long calendar for a selected country and year. The program is based in Norway and uses Java(TM) technology for information transmission. Access:

* Local Times around The World. This provides a listing of the standard local times for the world's countries and islands. Access:

* Maps and Information. This web site provides maps, yellow pages, weather and a concierge approach to many cities worldwide. Access:


* Do's and Taboos of Hosting International Visitors, Roger E. Axtell
* Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How To Do Business in 60 Countries, Wayne A. Conaway
* Multicultural Manners: New Roles Etiquette for a Changing Society, Norine Dresser
* Going International: How To Make Friends and Deal Effectively in The Global Marketplace, Lennie Copeland, Lewis Griggs
* The International Book of World Etiquette, Protocol and Refined Manners, Jean-Maximillien de Lafayette
* International Business Etiquette and Protocol: For Entrepreneurs and Managers, Livia Fysher

Ronna Archbold consults on Business and Sales Protocol and is a sales specialist for EBSCO Publishing. Mary Harmon is associate editor of The Five O'Clock News.

(c) Copyright 1999 The Five O'Clock Club. All rights reserved. You may print a copy of this article for your personal viewing. However, no other use of this article is allowed without prior written permission of the copyright holder.

Publication source: This article was published with permission of the copyright holder at the Internet Career Connection ( website.