I’ve had a blast this week rockin’ out at Inman Real Estate Connect, I’ve met some amazing people and learnt a silly amount. Ines taught us all that sleep is overrated, Jay reminded us not to write for search engines (cuz it will suck) and Jeff Turner hammered home that you need to be striving to engage with your audience, not just interacting…and this was all in the first couple of hours of the first day!
But one thing resonated with me throughout the whole conference, the way we greet each other. The event had a real emphasis on global real estate this year and you could tell, I personally met people from the USA, Canada, Panama, Australia, Spain, Russia, Germany, France, Holland and, of course, England. The mix of cultures was what made the event particularly special for me, but it’s also what led to some awkward moments.
Because different cultures greet each other differently. I swear if I had a pound for every time I went to kiss someone at Connect and ended up looking odd and creepy I’d have enough money for a quick trip down 5th Avenue before my flight home.
Personally, I would greet someone with two kisses, one on each cheek. We’re glamourous in Europe like that. From what I can see, in the US it is much more normal to greet with a fairly loose handshake. I’m a pretty firm shaker (as gross as that sounds) so that left me with a few embarrassing moments where I felt like I’d crippled a man’s hand. The friendlier greeting for those that know each other, from my observance of American folk, seems to be the hug with no kiss. Again, this is something that would be much more uncommon in Europe. So I should point out now that if we hugged during Connect when we met and I tried to kiss you on the cheek and ended up kissing your ear because you weren’t expecting it, I apologise…I wasn’t being crazy!
The friendliest folk in the world? The Dutch. In the Netherlands it is usual to kiss three times on the cheeks, even the first time you are introduced to someone. You’ll see this as commonplace in a number of Western European countries, including Switzerland. And don’t forget that in some parts of the world men kiss each other too, in Turkey and many Middle Eastern countries this is a completely normal way of greeting someone.
Of course in some parts of the world kissing on the cheeks would be completely inappropriate, for example in Muslim or Hindu countries. And in Eastern Asia it’s all about bowing.
So why is this important?
Well, it’s always good business practice to understand other cultures. When you’re meeting someone for the first time, you don’t want your first encounter to be marred by an awkward greeting. So if you’re doing international business, consult the interwebs to ensure you know what you need to know, there are heaps of sites offering advice.
In sum, apologies if I greeted you strangely whilst at Connect, I was all jumbled up culturally. And if I may make a suggestion, I think we should all adopt the Dutch approach…because three kisses are cute!