CareerQuest Newsletter
Business with Brazil, Russia, India and China

September 2008
My dear friends, colleagues, clients and students:

Welcome back from the summer fun. Hope you had an enjoyable time with family and friends. My wife Elizabeth and I vacationed in Cape May, New Jersey.

CareerQuest has planned an exciting Fall for you!

By popular request, we are forming Quad Groups, physical and virtual. You should have already received an email announcement about this exciting new opportunity, but if you haven't, please send me an email. You won't want to miss your chance to participate in this unique group experience.

We will also continue our Interactive Teleseminars - a lunch-and-learn program. More information coming soon.

Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is a Pathway To Your Soul!) is on track, due to be published by iUniverse, before the end of 2008.

CareerQuest was interviewed by CNN.com regarding Helicopter Parents. The article should appear on their website soon.

Several of our articles will continue to appear on the website, www.biz4nj.com. The mission of this website is to Help Garden State Business Grow.

This month's feature article is How to Work in a Cultural Context with People from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Countries.

In our previous issue of the CareerQuest Newsletter (July-August 2008), we urged you to speed up your job search during the summer months, instead of slowing down! Many of you would be assured of a gift in the fall - a new job! Guess what? Closer to home, two minor miracles have taken place, without any nudging from me! Believe it or not, my younger son got a new job as a vice president of marketing and operations for a small company in New York City, manufacturing natural/ecological/organic cleaners, and my older son secured a job with a leading university, also in New York City, as a multi-media technical coordinator and trainer, assisting professors with new technology, and developing courses for online use. Both of them started their new jobs, the day after Labor Day, September 2, 2008. Isn't that terrific for proving an important point?

Until we meet again through the magic of e-mail, keep your feedback coming.

Peace! Love! Shalom!

Don Sutaria, MS, IE (Prof.), PE
Founder, President & Life-Work Coach
CareerQuest


How to Work in a Cultural Context with People from BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) Countries
Watch the Gere/Shetty video and judge for yourself.
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. (A lyric from Herman Hupfeld's 1931 song As Time Goes By, from the Broadway musical, Everybody's Welcome)

(In real life a kiss may not be just a kiss!! Read on!)

Do you know what happened between Richard Gere (the Hollywood actor) and Shilpa Shetty (the Bollywood actress) in New Delhi, India, on April 15, 2007?

Shetty and Gere appeared at a press conference as a part of the AIDS-awareness program to advocate safe sex to truck drivers in India. At this event, Gere kissed Shetty on the cheek in jest. However, this kiss was considered a huge attack on India's cultural and moral values, as if Bollywood is not contributing enough to it! Extremist Hindu groups burned effigies of Gere and set fire to glamour shots of Shetty, in several protests across the country.

Shetty came to Gere's rescue by saying "I understand this kissing is Gere's culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such a manner. I understand people's sentiments, but I do not want a foreigner to take bad memories from here."

On April 26, 2007, an Indian court in Rajasthan issued warrants to arrest Gere and Shetty. However, the legal action against both Gere and Shetty was thrown out by the Indian Supreme Court. Gere had earlier apologized for unknowingly causing any offense and Shetty could not understand why "so much has been blown out of proportion."

Guess what happened? It was a cross-cultural faux pas (a social blunder)!

Acceptable Public Conduct and Behavior
Because of my multicultural orientation, one of my specialties is counseling and coaching of international professionals who want to make a smooth entry into the work life of America. Another important area of contribution is to prepare American managers and their families for working successfully in other countries like Brazil, Russia, India, and China, commonly referred to as the BRIC countries. Regardless whether you travel to these countries for business or pleasure, or people from these countries visit us here in the USA, the more cross-cultural decorum and respect for cultures you display, the smoother will be your transactions.

Brazil
Brazilians are proud of their culture and do not consider themselves as Hispanics. They are a mixture of races and ethnicities, resulting in rich diversity. However, there is a hidden Brazilian class system, based on skin color.

You might think that Spanish is their preferred language, but don't be surprised if they respond negatively to your overtures in Spanish. Believe it or not, Portuguese in the primary language in Brazil.

Unlike the American culture, in spatial relationships, Brazilians do stand very close to each other, somewhat akin to Middle Eastern culture. Long vigorous handshakes, constant eye contact, backslapping, and embraces between friends are considered normal.

The main social structure is the family. Brazilian women are known to greet each other by touching cheek to cheek, and then kissing the air. Another variation of that custom is that they will often kiss each other by alternating cheeks, twice if they are married and three times if they are single. Brazilians are known to dress elegantly.

Bodily contact like frequent touching of hands, shoulders, and arms, are common when they are conversing, usually in a soft-spoken manner. Snapping of fingers and flailing of hands are also used to lend emphasis to their animated conversations. Tugging at one's earlobes is considered a sign of appreciation. Try to avoid confrontations.

If they flick their fingertips underneath the chin, don't mistake it for an obscene or rude gesture! It only implies that you the listener does not know or understand the answer to a question. Also, men are expected to look self-assured and self-controlled at all times, a form of subtle machismo.

If you want to catch the attention of someone and want them to approach you, extend your palm face down and wave the fingers toward your own body. The typical American OK sign, using our first finger and thumb to form a circle, is considered rude and vulgar in the Brazilian culture. However, when things are going well, the use of "thumbs-up" sign is perfectly acceptable.

Please do not yawn or stretch in public, no matter how tired you feel! It is considered offensive in company and strongly frowned upon. Smoking has been banned in public places. Would you believe that people do not eat on the street or on public transportation, unlike in the USA?

Urban traffic in Brazil in notoriously fast and chaotic; use extra caution while crossing a street.

And we leave you here with the common greeting, "oi" for "hello" and "tchau" for goodbye!

Russia
Since my last visit to Russia almost 40 years ago in 1968, as a backpacking college student and world traveler, so much has changed culturally and economically. I have to depend a lot on what I read and what other people tell me about the revolution in Russia since the "walls were torn down."

Heavy smoking in public places is very common since there is no legal ban.

You can buy virtually any consumer goods in Russia, unlike in the past.

The official currency is the Ruble. Payment in US$, especially tips, is not appreciated very much because of the hassle of conversion to Rubles. Make sure you always carry business cards with you, with one side printed in Russian and the other in English.

A firm handshake is very common, even if you know the person well and work with them daily. Men are expected to wait until a woman extends her hand before reaching for it. When two women greet each other by shaking hands, the younger woman has to wait until the older woman extends her hand first. Note that eye contact is very important, especially during introductions.

Russians are most comfortable when a third party introduces them. Self-introduction is acceptable only if no one has taken the initiative to introduce you as a stranger to the individual or the group. Russians are not afraid to show some emotion and neither should you.

Be sensitive as to how you beckon a waiter at a restaurant. Discreetly raise your hand with your index finger outstretched. The typical Western "thumbs-up" sign is now an acceptable gesture of approval.

Be aware that only during greetings do Russians display affection in public. However, relatives and good friends may be seen in an animated embrace, at the same time kissing each other on the cheeks.
...the more cross-cultural decorum and respect for cultures you display, the smoother will be your transactions.
India
After years of toiling in poverty, India has recently turned into an economic powerhouse. Hardly a day goes by without some references on television, newspapers, or magazines. With a population of 1.1 billion and a strong, emerging middle class, the world cannot ignore India any more. Even the term 'Bangalored' has crept into American English, meaning a job from USA has been exported to India, especially in the field of information technology.

You have heard the saying, Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, attributed to Rudyard Kipling? Well, guess what? Western mores and technological progress have been absorbed a great deal in the culture of India, and the above axiom is no longer true! So, how do we prepare ourselves to meet India on a personal and business level?

In urban areas of India, shaking hands firmly is an acceptable way to greet Westernized Indians. Younger urban Indians will say 'Hi' and 'Hello' to you with hand gestures during informal contacts. Indian culture is still conservative, by and large. So, in your enthusiasm, refrain from greeting people with hugs and kisses. If you did not see the video mentioned in the earlier part of this article, please be sure to see it now, and gain additional insight.

Do not be concerned if Indian businessmen shake hands like limp fish. It is not lack of confidence or dislike of you. A soft and limp handshake actually conveys respect for you in that culture. Another area of puzzlement is eye contact. Indians try to avoid eye contact because to them it is truly a sign of respect and deference for you. The status equation consists of age, university degree, caste and profession. Gift giving with sincerity is very common.

If you dress in conservative, dark colored suits, you cannot go wrong. Business cards may be printed in English only, and can be exchanged after the initial introduction. Indians in general are relational, polite and non-confrontational. Keep in mind that business decisions are made rather slowly in India. Punctuality may not be one of their strong points, but that is changing slowly due to Western influence.

Shaking hands with women is a taboo, except perhaps in cities. It involves physical touch, which is not acceptable in the conservative Indian culture. A good rule of thumb also is to allow women and guests to go ahead of you. On some trains in India, there are exclusive women's compartments. Do not try to start conversation with a woman walking alone, since it may be misunderstood as a proposition for sex. Winking and whistling are considered rude and unacceptable behavior, loaded with sexual triggers.

If you stand with your hands on your hips, you are considered arrogant, and it is also seen as a dominating and aggressive posture, which will not work in your favor. Hands in one's pockets or folded in front of you while talking is also considered arrogant. If you point to someone with your finger, it can be seen as an accusatory gesture. If you must point, the alternative of using your hand, palm or chin is somewhat tolerable. It is quite normal for Indians to gesticulate wildly while talking with each other, but a foreigner should refrain from doing so.

Members of Indian society respect age, seniority and authority. This is true in private and public life. Since English (British style) is widely spoken and understood in urban areas of India, you will find that most Indians are quite courteous to foreigners. However, seeing them as rich, they can also become targets for being swindled. Be careful with your money and who you deal with, since smooth hucksters are very common. Watch for pick-pockets who can deftly relieve you of your wallet or pocketbook.

Being a developing nation with a lot of poverty pockets, beggars may still pester you in most public places. If you give some money to one of the beggars, you will be severely pestered by a mob of beggars who will follow you around. If you must give, give your contribution to a well-known local charity.

You will see crowds everywhere, almost 24/7, unlike what you have ever seen in the Western world. People may be constantly brushing against you. Comfortable standing distance here is about 2 feet, instead of 3 to 4 feet in other parts of the developed world. Continuous direct eye contact is frowned upon. However, out of curiosity or jealousy about riches, don't be too alarmed if some natives stare at you real hard and intrusively.

Shoes are left outside the temples and most houses. Feet are considered unclean, so don't point your feet at someone. At the extreme, if you feet or shoes touch another person, you need to apologize instantly. Do not pick up anything to eat with your left hand because it is considered unclean, being used specifically for personal hygiene after using an Indian-style bathroom. Native Indians eat their food with the fingers of the right hand.

Want to become popular and establish instant rapport with Indians in general, but especially Hindus who have an 85% majority? Then join your two hands together in front of you in a prayer-like gesture, bow your head back and forth slowly towards your host, and say Namaste (in Sanskrit, a catchall for hi, hello, good morning, goodbye, happy to see you, etc.). Another wonderful greeting with same gestures is Namaskar (again, in Sanskrit, means, I salute the divinity in you!). Muslims in India may like to be greeted the traditional way, Salaam-Wale-Kum, eliciting a response, Wale-Kum-Salaam. If you want to be a hit with Sikhs, greet them with Sat-Siree-Akaal! Note that folding of hands, bowing, or other gestures are not needed for the Muslim and Sikh greetings.

China
The world's population giant has 1.3 billion people. It is fast absorbing Western culture for the past few years. Homes in the USA are loaded with consumer goods and electronics made in China. Personally I have been impressed by the quality of their manufactured goods, if you are willing to pay the price.

Perhaps because of past history, there is a heavy emphasis on repressing emotion, and smiling is not so noticeable in China. Therefore, try to avoid making expansive gestures and unusual facial expressions (like clowning). Unlike the Indians and Italians, the Chinese do not use their hands freely when speaking, and find it annoying when foreign speakers do so.

The Chinese use a gentle nod as an initial greeting in front of strangers. Unlike the Japanese, bowing is rarely used except in certain ceremonies. Handshakes are popular and acceptable. However, do not stick your hand out first, but wait for your Chinese host to initiate this gesture.

If you are greeted with applause as a sign of welcome, you should respond by applauding back. If you need to point to something or someone, use your whole hand rather than your index finger. If you want to draw attention and have a person approach you, turn your palm down, at the same time waving the fingers toward yourself.

The Chinese society, just like the Indian one, respects elders. However, the older Chinese and those in positions of authority, dislike being touched by strangers, a sign of over familiarity. Remember to acknowledge the most senior person in a group first.

Note carefully that public displays of affection between the sexes is frowned upon. However, members of the same sex may hold hands in public in order to show friendliness, without implying any sexual connotation.

If you put your hands in your mouth, it is considered vulgar. So also is biting your nails, removing food from the teeth, or sticking fingers in your ears. Spitting in public is no longer acceptable, which now carries a very heavy fine. Blowing your nose in public into a handkerchief is acceptable, provided the person turns away from the people during this act.

It may come as a shock to you that pushing and cutting ahead in lines is very common among the Chinese (similar to India), but they are upset and annoyed when someone else cuts in front of them.

Many of my suggestions may appear to be typical stereotypes, but I must say that the 2008 Olympic Games have become a catalyst for Chinese business practices to be more in alignment with conventional international methods. Referrals and personal relationships are much more important to Chinese businessmen. Rank and seniority are respected, and saving face is the cultural norm. Gift giving and receiving are appreciated, which greases the wheels prior to major business deals.

Beware of some hot buttons with the Chinese. Unknowingly you may lose a business deal. Refrain from talking about Taiwan as an independent country, praising the Japanese, discussing their governing party, or praising Shanghai in front of people from Beijing or vice versa.

Bob Kapp, president of the US-China Business Council, gives us this advice to prevent blunders in China: "Be modest in demeanor. Listen well. Preach little. Watch how others do things and follow suit." Sane advice.

If you want to try and make a Chinese friend smile, try Ni Hao (Hi, Hello), Xie Xie (Thank You), and Zai Jian (Goodbye).



Don Sutaria is Founder and President of CareerQuest (formerly New Life Career Counseling), located in New York and New Jersey. CareerQuest is also mentioned in "What Color is Your Parachute?" Sutaria is a consultant to individuals and various corporations, offering executive coaching and career management services. He has developed unique methods for capturing jobs in the new millennium. He appeared on a Phil Donahue TV special on unorthodox methods of job hunting. Known as "Career Doctor Don", he has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Star-Ledger, The Union Leader, WorkingSmart, SmartMoney, Fortune, Money, and on WINS and WOR radio. He specializes in counseling of international professionals, Generation X (age 20-29), career changers, freelancers, consultants, mid-career executives and people over age 50. He really believes that your career is a pathway to your soul.

Mr. Sutaria has over forty years of diversified industrial and management experience, complemented by training in career development and hands-on experience in career advising. He is an international cross-cultural trainer. He has also served on committees of several organizations, and conducted courses, seminars and symposiums at Columbia University, New York University, Nyack College, Alliance Graduate School of Counseling, Rutgers, and Stevens Institute of Technology. He is a member of the Association of Career Professionals International and the Career Counselors Consortium.

Don earned his MS degree in Management from Kansas State University, an IE (Professional) degree in International Management and Personnel Relations from Columbia University, and obtained New York University's postgraduate Certificate in Adult Career Planning and Development.

Don Sutaria is the author of 
Career And Life Counseling From The Heart (Your Career Is A Pathway To Your Soul!) due to be published in 2008.