International business travelers should learn social and culture differences of the countries they do business with because the slightest inappropriate gesture could translate into a huge embarrassment or worse, an international program developer told members of Bainbridge State College’s business honor society.

Rajgopal Sashti, director of international program development at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga., told members of the Alpha Beta Gamma Business Honor Society on Tuesday, June 18, that understanding other people’s languages, culture, etiquettes and taboos are particularly important in today’s international climate.

“The greater the sensitivity to his or her culture, the easier the relationship it will be,” Sashti said.

He stressed the importance of learning non-Western countries’ culture, etiquettes and taboos, particularly of those in such emerging economies as China, India and Brazil. He also stressed it because American society itself is becoming more diverse and the forces of international commerce are growing. For example, 50 percent of the profits of American companies are coming from overseas, Sashti said.

He gave an example of how business cards are valued differently in the Unites States versus how they are in Japan. He said he witnessed an exchange of business cards between American and Japanese executives and how the situation was interpreted differently.

In the United States, a business card is a contact tool and many people hand one over with their left hand or just stuff them in their back pockets. In some countries of the Middle East or Asia, it is an insult to give or retrieve something using your left hand, or to place into or retrieve something from a back pocket, Sashti said.

In Japan, a business card is somewhat of a status symbol. When a Japanese person hands over a business card, Sashti said they often would hand it over with both hands and bow to the recipient.


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