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How To Meet And Greet, Global Style.


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.

Why?

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!

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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!

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Written By

Poppy Dinsey works in Business Development at Globrix, the UK property search engine. She lives and works in London, which she loves except for the awful weather and lack of good pecan pie. She's got a pretty nifty degree in Eastern European Economics from UCL, which she readily admits she's never put to good use, although she did once dress up a Russian Bond Girl. You can find her on Twitter, 12Seconds, Seesmic and pretty much everywhere that's ever had a website.

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Mariana

    January 11, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Cultural norms are obviously different withing a country as well. New Yorkers are also known for their double-kiss reception… but that doesn’t fly in most other states/cities.

    I wish I coulda met you in person, Poppy … as I am a firm-shakin’-double kissin’-kinda gal, myself. 😉

  2. Thomas Johnson

    January 11, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    Poppy: Come to Texas.

    Here, we shake hands so that we know the other party’s six shooter is holstered. Yep, girls pack heat here, too. An armed society is very polite.

  3. Matt Stigliano

    January 12, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Poppy – I had to get used to all the kissing in Europe. My first tour there, I was a bit shocked by it, but it soon became the norm. Record company execs, booking agents, press people, the caterer – it seemed everyone wanted to kiss me. I thought maybe I was just that cool. Of course, when we would transition back to a US tour, we had to remember that that’s not how its done here. Great reminder of how it works around the globe and how we (especially us Americans – as we travel to foreign countries much less than you with your fancy RyanAir) need to be aware of the world around us.

  4. Paula Henry

    January 14, 2009 at 4:38 am

    Poppy – How many ears did you kiss? 🙂 I am by nature a hugger, probably a midwest thing, but usually find most people are handshakers. Like you, I believe in a firm handshake; I guess people don’t expect that from a woman,as I am often met by a limp hand and left thinking – Ooops!

  5. Poppy Dinsey

    January 14, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Mariana – I wish I could have got a pic of you with your now famous in NY stickers 😉

    Thomas – Every time I see a gun I panic, that seems so weird here! I never thought of that when it comes to hugging/shaking hands!

    Matt – Did you just call RyanAir fancy? I may not be able to speak to you ever again.

    Paula – A lot of ears! And a lot of hair! Nothign worse than crippling a mans hand, I do it every time…great first impression :-s

  6. Jay Thompson

    January 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I hugged Poppy the first time I saw her at Connect. Because, well, it was Poppy! I don’t recall getting a kiss back, and I’m pretty sure I would remember that.

    For those that haven’t had the pleasure, Poppy is as wicked cool in person as she is on the internet.

    And you shoulda seen her in that Phoenix Real Estate Guy t-shirt. SMOKIN! 😉

  7. Matt Stigliano

    January 14, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Poppy – I did call it fancy, but not in the “frills” sense of the word. Living in America where it costs me more to fly Pittsburgh to Philadelphia (a 5 hour drive) than it does Los Angeles to Heathrow, I hate our airline system. When they cry about going under, I pray that the government will let them fail and let companies like Southwest, RyanAir or EasyJet take over our system. Southwest is one of the few bright spots in our airline industry, but even they could learn a thing or two from RyanAir. I just miss the ease of flying somewhere for cheap. Maybe it would get Americans to see more of this country and the rest of the world.

  8. Matt Stigliano

    January 14, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Speaking of handshakes, I recently met a title company rep and when she introduced herself I shook her hand. Unfortunately, I shook her hand like I was taught…firmly. She howled with pain (turns out a lot of large rings make a firm handshake painful). I felt bad, but thought, how does everyone else shake her hand?

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