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3 ways to add cultural sensitivity to your holiday greetings

As the world gets smaller, there are still ways to be business sharp and culture savvy during the holiday season.

greeting cards

greeting cards

Approaching holiday season

It’s that time of year again – it’s holiday season, that time of year when, here in America, our department stores and TV commercials blast cool deals and gift ideas for everyone on our lists. October through December can be rough waters to navigate when dealing with diverse teams, international business associates, or clients from other nations.

Even in America, we know that not everyone celebrates Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Hanukkah. Couple that with Thanksgiving, Halloween, and All Saints Day, this holiday season can leave us all very susceptible to making cultural blunders in our home country. So how do you mitigate making the same such blunders abroad? These three tips will add culturally sensitivity to your holiday list.

Tip 1: Scrap Holiday Cards Altogether

It may sound crazy, but opting to skip sending holiday cards could save you time and face. Instead of send country- or culture-specific (moon harvest festival, cold fish pudding day, etc.) greetings, opt to send a general “thank you,” “we appreciate your business,” or “hope you’re well” card. So many people complain that business is missing a personal touch. Create your own value-add by showing that you genuinely care.

Tip 2: Send a New Year’s Greeting

Every culture has some sort of way to commemorate the new year, albeit it may fall on a day other than January 1st. A sure-fire, safe bet would be to send a (Gregorian Calendar) new year’s greeting. Besides being a less-likely way to offend someone, offering a well-timed new year’s greeting can be an added element of surprise as many companies only send religious holiday greetings.

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Tip 3: Invest in Target-Language Appropriate Cards

If you decide to send holiday cards to international recipients, I suggest investing in a translator or specific target-language cards. I tend to steer clear of translated religious greetings and send target-language appropriate new year’s greetings or seasonal greetings. Things like “Wishing you a prosperous New Year,” “May this season bring you much success.” or “May our partnership flourish in the New Year” have gone over well with my Chinese-language clients. I say invest, because to find out what wording, color and imagery will be well-received culturally takes work, but in the end it is worth it.

Simple protocol to follow:

Above all, use your judgement. Follow the same protocol you use domestically when sending a business holiday card:
*Only sign your name (not title, department, etc.)
*Do not include a business card
*Do not sign “Love,” or include hearts
*Do hand sign the card

Written By

Monica Moffitt, founder and Principal Cultural Consultant at Tianfen Consulting, Inc., has traveled the world and enjoys linguistics and all things culture. Having split her career between project management and business analytics, Monica merges logic, fluency in Chinese and creativity in her new role as cultural consultant. She received a Bachelor of Arts in East Asian Studies/Chinese from Vanderbilt University and a Master of Business Administration (International Management and Marketing) from University of Texas at Dallas.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. MatthewC

    October 23, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Great post. Make sure your CRM for Realtors has a field for religion so you can send relevant holiday greetings at the right times 🙂

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