Florida Realtor April 2011 : Page 24


Culture Shockers

One thing is clear: When working with global buyers and investors, never make assumptions based on their cultural background.

These business etiquette tips can help you avoid a faux pas.

Every person you meet in the real estate profession is an individual with rights, interests and visions of the future that are their own, yet much like everyone else’s,” according to Michael D. Lee, CRS, GRI, author of “Opening Doors: Selling to Multicultural Real Estate Customers.” He says, “Understanding their cultures and beliefs will help you to establish friendship, rapport, and sound business success.” Here are some tips excerpted from his popular book:

Showing Property

• Punctuality. Know how important punctuality is to your customers. If in doubt, be punctual. In general, people from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are sticklers for promptness. But being 15 to 30 minutes late is generally quite acceptable to those from the middle East. The Japanese may be consistently 30 minutes late, yet they expect you to be on time. Waiting for them is the way you show respect.

People from Latin America, Italy and Spain expect you to arrive late.

• Smoking. Make known your smoking preferences. Smoking is more prevalent and accepted in countries other than the United States. If you prefer that customers not smoke in your car or in your sellers’ house, say so. But if you’re a smoker, it’s best for you not to smoke in their presence.They may be offended by the smoke, but they probably won’t tell you out of courtesy.

• Transportation. Carefully plan transportation logistics. Because many foreign customers bring members of their extended family to showings, be sure to confirm travel plans in advance.Some expect to be driven to showings in a spotless, even luxurious car.

• Neighborhood. This goes without saying, but we’ll say it Anyway. Don’t steer your customers to a particular neighborhood. You can’t legally or ethically assume that people of a particular culture want to live in an area occupied by others from their culture. Your best tactic is to present all the information you have about various neighborhoods where they’re qualified to buy. Let them make the decision.

Colors and Numbers

In Germany, red roses express love and romance, so they may not make an appropriate gift in the business setting.

A yellow gift in Mexico would not be well received because the color is associated with death.

The Chinese traditionally wear black to weddings and white to funerals. White is associated with death in a number of Asian countries, which is the opposite of European and American traditions.

While the number 7 is considered lucky and 13 unlucky in the West, the number 4 is a bad omen in much of Asia and 8 is considered lucky.

Tips on Gift Giving

• Bring a small, thoughtful gift when you meet with new customers. Although giving a gift before the end of a business transaction may be considered bribery in some cultures, it’s acceptable and even expected in certain countries such as South Korea, India, and Japan.

• Never outspend your customers when exchanging gifts. One strategy is to open your gift first, and then say you need to retrieve their gift from your car.You can have several wrapped and ready in different price ranges.

• Avoid giving gifts bearing the American eagle to customers from China and Saudi Arabia. The eagle a bad-luck symbol in those cultures.

• Never give alcohol to Islamic customers.Most people who practice this faith do not drink.

• Avoid giving Asian customers knives or scissors. To them, anything that cuts symbolizes the severing of a relationship. Also avoid giving a clock or any white gift, and stay away from white wrapping paper. Such details symbolize death to Asians.

• Don’t give handkerchiefs to Middle Easterners. To them, they connote sadness, tears or pity.

• Exercise caution when giving flowers. In Mexico and Brazil, purple flowers are associated with death, while white flowers, such as carnations, have a similar connotation in Japan and for many European natives.

Basics of Global Business Norms

Beyond using normal good manners, which you probably already do in the course of business, it’s important to project positive attitudes toward diversity, as well as adjust to the other person’s need for communication.

Following are some basics for multicultural business norms and etiquette:

• Learn at least A few phrases of the other’s language.

• Show appreciation for the other’s customs, music and art; do not criticize.

• Be sensitive and nonjudgmental on politics and religion; avoid discussing these topics if possible.

• Show good intentions and consideration.

Follow up on promises.

• Acknowledge mistakes and apologize when appropriate.

• Recognize that you need to be more formal and take more time in doing business than is your normal practice.

• Minimize talk about the United States.

• Be punctual, even if punctuality is not customary for the person you are visiting. Many cultures regard lateness as a character flaw, and if they do not, they know that an American would be insulted if another American were late.

• Do not tell or make jokes; they have a high probability of being misunderstood.

• Show deference to older people: stand when they enter; wait for them to speak or extend their hands in greeting.

• Treat members of the opposite sex with respect. Err on the side of formality.

• Be patient and forgiving if a member of the opposite sex has trouble determining how to treat you. Remember that other cultures differ regarding the roles of men and women in business relationships and that people from those cultures may have difficulty adjusting to expectations in the United States.

• Respect the concept of “face.” Never do anything to embarrass another person, either in that person’s eyes, in the eyes of others or in your own eyes. Likewise, do not sacrifice your own face in front of others.

Excerpted from “At Home With Diversity®” and the “Global Real Estate: Local Markets” courses from the National Association of Realtors®.

Read the full article at http://browndigital.bpc.com/article/Culture+Shockers/1288470/143037/article.html.

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