International Business: 'Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands' is a new guide for international sales and marketing

Published: Friday, Dec. 30 2011 7:00 a.m. MST

Other interesting highlights include the notation that the workweek in Saudi Arabia runs Saturday through Wednesday, not Monday through Friday. Saudis also typically receive a minimum of 23 vacation days each year. Asian readers who are accustomed to very formal business card exchanges read that, in the United States, "cards may… be placed in a wallet, which may go into a male executive's back pants pocket. None of this is considered insulting."

"Do not be surprised to see very young-looking executives in positions of substantial responsibility," explain the authors in another curious cultural note about the United States. "Young managers in senior positions are often quite capable and exceedingly competitive. Alternatively, they may be youthful looking because of surgical interventions."

In an effort to emphasize the importance of setting appropriate expectations, Morrison and Conaway share an anecdote about the CEO of a multinational company who visited South Korea. His hosts planned an elaborate schedule for the week that began with an expensive evening of drinking and entertaining. As a "profound Southern Baptist," the CEO refused to drink or participate in what the hosts thought would be an impressive first meeting, and this set an uncomfortable tone for the rest of the week. The authors do not insist that the CEO should have simply obliged just as Delaye ate the durian in Indonesia; however, they note that a little advance communication about the CEO's convictions could have avoided this awkwardness.

Morrison and Conaway also include tips about translating marketing collateral, working with interpreters and learning common phrases in other languages. These guidelines are even helpful in English speaking countries: the profile on the United Kingdom lists various English words that have different meanings in that country, and the profile on South Africa notes that advertising in that country tends to be very visual due to the widely varying levels of education and the multitude of other official languages spoken.

"Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: Sales and Marketing" is available in e-book or paperback format and works well as an entertaining in-flight read or as a handy reference guide. I recommend it as a good belated Christmas gift for anyone fascinated by international business, sales, marketing, language and culture. Now that my wife has given this book to me for Christmas, I am curious to find the closest market selling fresh durian.

Adam Wooten is director of translation services at Lingotek. He also teaches a course on translation technology at Brigham Young University. Email: awooten@lingotek.com. Follow him on Twitter at AdamWooten.

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