Your Gestures: Lost in Translation?

When traveling for business internationally, there can be many challenges. Perfecting your presentation to clients/colleagues, making sure you make your flight on time, remembering the country code when dialing, ensuring you have enough local currency – these being but a few common headaches to figure out.

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

 

While there will be many challenges you’ll have to deal with ad-hoc, there is one area where advanced research is critical before you travel: Gestures. Did you know that in Brazil and Greece, the “Ok” sign is considered vulgar or obscene? Or did you know that in Japan and southern France, the same symbol means “worthless” or “zero”? And, in Australia and the Middle East, the “thumbs up” gesture means “Up yours!”, which isn’t something you’d ever want to say in a business scenario.

 

Style of communication is also important to consider. In Germany, for example, native-Germans speak in a very matter-of-fact style. Unless you are 100% fluent in German, do not use allegories, analogies or coded language as it will not get you anywhere (even when trying to make a joke!). Ask for exactly what you want, and say what exactly you mean. It will be better for everyone

 

Before your trip – conducting Internet searches, picking up a guidebook for the plane, or having a brief conversation with your host/guide can be tremendously beneficial. Doing your research ahead of time means you’ll avoid embarrassing moments with colleagues, potential clients, or those who you meet along your stay – allowing you to focus on your big wins and enjoyment of your experiences.

 

Happy Travel