With the rapid development of international economy and multi-cultural society, global business continues to expand and bring people closer. Moreover, the most important element for a successful business is to understand different etiquette manners and inter-cultural communication. Business etiquette guides people to behave in a certain way. However, each society with special culture environment has developed different ways to deal with a given type of interaction and it is difficult to argue that one way is better than the other. Because each culture values its own etiquette rules and considers them as moral.
This paper will analysis the business etiquette and cultural conventions among America, Canada and Mexico in behavior, dressing and communication.
Key words: business etiquette; cultural conventions; America; Canada; Mexico
The population of the United States is 300 million people of mixed races and heritage. Although the population is predominantly of European descent, the country has been a welcoming beacon to immigrants from virtually every country and culture in the world. English is the predominant language, although languages from many foreign countries are spoken within cultural enclaves throughout the U.S. The majority of American's (U.S.) are Christian.
The United States of America consists of 50 states governed on a federal level, as well as a state level. Laws are written at both levels, and when doing business in the United States one must make sure to meet the requirements mandated by these laws. The country is very litigious so legal resources are available and specialists can be found to assist with any transaction.
The culture and geographic location of an area will influence how business is done.
Traditionally, the East Coast is more conservative and formal in their dress and manners than the West Coast. That is not to say a West Coast meeting carries any less importance. The climate and lifestyle are just more relaxed, which is reflected in the pace and informality.
Canada has a population just less than 30 million people in a country twice the area of the United States. The heritage of Canada was French and English; however, significant immigration from Asia and Europe's non-French and English countries has broadened Canada's cultural richness. This cultural diversity is considered a national asset, and the Constitution Act prohibits discrimination against individual citizens on the basis of race, color, religion, or sex. The great majority of Canadians are Christian. Although the predominant language in Canada is English, there are at least three varieties of French that are recognized: Quebecois in Quebec, Franco-Manitoban throughout Manitoba and particularly in the St. Boniface area of Winnipeg, and Acadian. The Italian language is a strong third due to a great influx of Italian immigrants following W.W.II.
Canada's three major cities are distinctively, even fiercely different from one another even though each is a commercially thriving metropolitan center. Montreal, established in the 17th century and the largest French city outside France, has a strong influence of French architecture and culture. It is a financial and manufacturing center and seaport, with the majority of Canada's European exports and imports coming through its harbor. Toronto, another major financial and commercial center, is filled with office towers not historic buildings. It has a great number of people living in and around the central business district. The downtown district does not "close up" when people leave work. Vancouver, nestled at the base of the Coast Mountains, is the financial, commercial, agricultural, and industrial center for western Canada. It's harbor and mountains make it one of Canada's most picturesque. Consequently, West Vancouver is the most densely populated urban area and has the highest income per person of any municipality.
Three times the size of the state of Texas, Mexico has a population of almost 88 million. The ethnic composition of the country is 60 percent mestizo (a mixture of Indian and European), 30 percent Amerindian, 9 percent white, and 1 percent other. Mexico is a federal republic. Spanish is the official language of Mexico, although over 100 Indian languages are also spoken. English is widely understood by educated people and in urban centers. There is no official religion, but almost 90 percent of Mexicans are Roman Catholic. Protestants account for around 5 percent.
Mexico is one of the United States’ most important trade partners. It is the third largest exporter to the United States, and its international trade products include oil exports, tourism, and the products of its many assembly plants (called maquiladoras). Most of the labor force is employed in the agricultural sector.
Therefore, this paper analyses the difference in America, Canada and Mexico in two aspects, one is business etiquette, another is cultural conventions.
2. Behavior Etiquette
Business conversation may take place during meals. However, many times you will find more social conversation taking place during the actual meal.
Business meetings may be arranged as breakfast meetings, luncheon meetings, or dinner meetings depending on time schedules and necessity. Generally a dinner, even though for business purposes, is treated as a social meal and a time to build rapport.
If you are someplace with a line or queue, go to the end and wait your turn.
Do not use or chew on a toothpick in public.
Many public places and private homes do not allow smoking. In some areas laws have been passed to prevent smoking in public places.
Be punctual for meetings and appointments, as promptness is valued. In French areas, time is more relaxed. However, you will be expected to arrive at the appointed time, even if the French attending the meeting don't.
Always maintain a reserved demeanor, and follow good rules of etiquette. Traditions and gracious manners are part of the culture, even in more rural areas. If you travel to different cities or areas, pay attention to local customs. By being observant, you will respect the pace and nuances of each area.
Do not eat while walking in public. Plan your time so you can stop in a café or restaurant to enjoy your snack.
Gifts are not routinely given. If you do give a gift when you arrive or when you are leaving, make it a modest one. A lavish gift, though accepted, would be frowned upon.
Gifts are given to celebrate finalizing a negotiation, a contract, or a project. Gifts for the office, a nice bottle of wine or liquor would be appropriate.
Taking a business associate to a nice meal or an evening sporting event, play, or symphony is always a nice gesture.
Invitations to private homes are rare. Occasionally, in the western provinces, you may be invited to someone's home. If you are invited, you may take candy, flowers, or liquor to the host or hostess.
Wait for your host to start a business conversation during or following a meal. Traditionally, business is not discussed during dinner; however, this is slowly changing.
Personal space and body movement or gestures differ between the English and the French provinces and cities. In English areas, body movement is minimal, there is rarely touching other than handshakes, and personal space - how close someone stands - is about two feet. In French areas, people stand closer together, people will frequently touch, and gestures are more expressive.
Men shake hands upon meeting and leaving, and will wait for a woman to be the first to offer her hand.
Women may shake hands with men and other women. Many times a woman may pat another woman's shoulder or forearm, or kiss on the cheek.
Longtime friends may embrace, and after several meetings you may also be greeted with an embrace.
Punctuality is not rigid because of the emphasis on personal obligations. The best time for appointments is between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., with late afternoon a second choice.
Business lunches, rather than dinners are the traditional form of business entertaining and are usually prolonged affairs, beginning between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. and lasting three to four hours, with little time being devoted to actual business. Lunches are an essential part of business to establish a personal relationship.
Working breakfasts are also popular, meeting at 8:00 or 8:30 at your hotel, and usually lasting two hours at the most.
Conversations take place at a close physical distance. Stepping back may be regarded as unfriendly.
Mexican men are warm and friendly, and make a lot of physical contact. They often touch shoulders or hold another’s arm. To withdraw from this touch is considered insulting.
Giving gifts to business executives is not required. Small items with a company logo (for an initial visit) are appreciated.
Secretaries do appreciate gifts. If giving a valuable gift, such as perfume or a scarf, present it on a return visit. A man giving it to a female secretary should indicate the gift is from his wife.
Gifts are not required for a dinner guest, but will be appreciated. Good choices are candy, flowers (sent ahead of time), or local crafts from home.
When giving flowers: yellow – represent death, red – cast spells, and white – lift spells.
Do not give gifts made of silver, as it is associated with trinkets sold to tourists.
Women should not invite a male counterpart for a business dinner unless other associates or spouses attend. Also, Mexican men will graciously attempt to pay for a meal, even though you are hosting it. A professional way to host a meal is to dine or lunch at your hotel. Pre-arrange to have the meal added to your hotel bill.
Tipping is appropriate for services provided. Wages are often so low that workers depend heavily on gratuities for their income.
Pay for store purchases by placing money in the cashier’s hand, rather than on the counter.
3. Dressing Etiquette
Business suit and tie are appropriate in all major cities. Wear dark colored business suits in classic colors of gray and navy. For an important formal meeting, choose a white dress shirt, for less formal a light blue shirt will still give you a conservative appearance.
Women should wear a suit or dress with jacket in major cities. Wearing classic clothing and classic colors of navy, gray, ivory, and white will ensure you give a confident and conservative appearance.
Rural areas and areas with extremely warm summers have more informal wardrobe requirements.
Women may wear a business dress, or skirt and blouse, in rural areas.
Men may conduct business without wearing a jacket and/or tie in rural areas.
The formality of a meeting, even in rural areas, may dictate a sports jacket and tie for men. The same formality will require a woman to wear a dress, possibly with a jacket.
Casual clothing is appropriate when not attending a work related meeting/dinner. Building a casual wardrobe using classic lines and colors (navy, gray, camel, ivory and white) will give you a look that is stylish and professional even when you are relaxing.
Clothing, whether formal or casual, should be clean and neat in appearance.
Men may generally wear jeans or khaki pants with a shirt for casual attire.
Women may wear comfortably fitting slacks with a casual shirt. Wearing jeans or shorts, even in a casual setting, may be inappropriate for the city. It is better to err on the conservative side if you are not sure.
Plan for a very cold climate, especially during their winter.
Men should wear a dark conservative business suit with tie, especially in cities. Build a wardrobe based on classic lines (selecting suits with a traditional lapel width, and ties staying within a traditional width range). Conservative colors of navy and gray, and shirts in white and light blue.
Women should wear a conservative business suit or dress, especially in cities. Select your clothing with classic lines and colors in mind. Navy, gray, ivory, and white are the basics to work with. The major cities can be very sophisticated.
New or trendy clothing is a poor choice. Older, classic clothing that is clean and neat is more valued. Choosing quality, natural fibers for your wardrobe will give you this look. Quality leather shoes are important to completing this look.
Rural areas are less formal, but stay conservative in your wardrobe. Even with cold winter weather you may find yourself in a skirt or dress. Add a good quality long coat with minimal and classic detail to your wardrobe. In addition to navy and gray, a classic camel coat, or a lined Burberry may be a good addition. This will work for a sophisticated city meeting, or a more casual rural meeting.
Casual attire is appropriate when you are not working. The weather and activity will dictate what you will be wearing. Build a casual wardrobe using the classic colors (camel is additional color for casual). You will look professional, even though relaxed.
The "V for Victory" sign is an insult if your palm is facing yourself. If you must use this sign, face your palm outward.
Men should wear a conservative dark suit and tie. Your wardrobe should include suits that have classic lines and tailoring in gray or navy, and white or light blue shirts. A white shirt is more formal and should be worn when the formality of the meeting dictates.
Women should wear a dress or skirt and blouse. A classic suit may also be worn. Build a wardrobe using classic lines, classic skirt lengths, and basic classic colors - gray, navy, white, and ivory.
Men may wear pants and a light shirt for casual. Plan a casual wardrobe using the classic colors, plus camel, and you will be casual, yet polished. Should you have the opportunity to wear a guayabera, the wonderful traditional lightweight shirt, you wear is out over your pants. This design is very comfortable in warmer weather.
Women may wear a blouse with pants or a skirt for casual. To present yourself as professional and polished, even in an informal setting, build your casual wardrobe using classic shades of gray, blue, camel, white and ivory.
Jeans are generally not appropriate, and tight or low cut clothing is never appropriate.
Standing with your hands on your hips suggests aggressiveness, and keeping your hands in your pockets is impolite.
Mexicans may not make eye contact. This is a sign of respect and should not be taken as an affront.
Offer a firm handshake, lasting 3-5 seconds, upon greeting and leaving. Maintain good eye contact during your handshake. If you are meeting several people at once, maintain eye contact with the person you are shaking hands with, until you are moving on the next person.
Good eye contact during business and social conversations shows interest, sincerity and confidence.
Good friends may briefly embrace, although the larger the city, usually the more formal the behavior.
Introductions include one's title if appropriate, or Mr., Ms, Mrs. and the full name.
Business cards are generally exchanged during introductions. However, they may be exchanged when one party is leaving.
A smile is a sign of friendliness, and in rural areas you may be greeted with a "hello" rather than a handshake.
Ask permission to smoke before lighting a cigarette or cigar. Due to health concerns, you may or may not be given permission.
Use a firm handshake with good eye contact when meeting and leaving. Both French and English areas use and expect a firm handshake.
Men will wait for a woman to extend her hand for a handshake.
French Canadians will shake hands more frequently, even with a subsequent encounter the same day. Others may just nod or smile at a subsequent encounter on the same day.
Use a person's title if he or she has one. Otherwise, use Mr., Mrs., Miss and the surname.
English is spoken in most of Canada. French is spoken in Quebec, and some area of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick
French Canadians may use their first name when talking to you on the telephone, but will generally use their full name when meeting you in person.
Be open and friendly in your conversation. If you are naturally reserved in your behavior, you will appear confident and credible. If your natural tendency is large sweeping arm gestures, restrain yourself when meeting and talking with Canadians - other than with French Canadians.
French Canadians stand closer and are more demonstrative when talking.
For French Canadians, print all material in French and English.
Don't be boastful, and don't overstate your product or service's capabilities. You could implicate your company in a legal situation.
If you are from the U. S., don't say, "we Americans", inferring you are including your Canadian hosts or guests in your reference. Canada is a distinct country with its own wonderful history and culture.
Refrain from using first names until invited to do so.
Titles are important and should be included on business cards. You may directly speak to someone by only using his or her title only, without including the last name.
Doctor is a physician or Ph.D. Professor it the title for a teacher. Ingeniero is an engineer. Arquitecto is an architect. Abogado is a lawyer.
People without professional titles are addressed using Mr., Mrs., or Miss and his or her surname. Senor is Mr., Senora is Mrs., and Senorita is Miss
Hispanics generally use two surnames. The first surname listed is from the father, and the second surname listed is from the mother. When speaking to someone use his or her father’s surname.
A married woman will add her husband's father's name to the end of her name, usually shown as de (name) when written. This woman would be formally addressed as Senora de (name).
In speaking to this same married woman less formally, you would simply say Senora (name).
Do not use red ink anytime you are writing someone's name.
The traditional toast in Mexico is Salud (Sal-UUD).
Mexican’s use a "psst-psst" sound to catch another’s attention in public. This is not considered rude.
Mexicans refer to people from the United States as North Americans.
Good conversational topics are Mexican culture, history, art, and museums.
Never discuss the Mexican-American war, poverty, illegal aliens, or earthquakes.
Although we all know that America; Canada and Mexico belong to North America, but they have their own business etiquette and cultural conventions. Therefore, this paper analyses the difference between these countries in three aspects, one is the behavior, the second is dressing, the last is communication, in order to help readers understand the culture of these three countries.
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