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Watch your handshakes!

Movers and shakers wanting to clinch a deal in Japan must first learn how to bow correctly. If you are greeted with a bow, return with a bow as low as the one you received. Keep your palms flat next to your thighs. It is very important to remember that business cards should be given after the bow, and are given and received with both hands. Some Japanese greet with a handshake. Do not misinterpret a weak handshake as an indication of character.

In India, it's a different story. Indians greet with the namaste, formed by pressing the palms together with fingers up below the chin and nodding the head. To show respect, a slight bow is added. When meeting foreigners, Indian men shake hands, but do not generally touch women, out of respect for privacy. Indian women may offer their hands as a courtesy. When meeting a woman, a man should wait for her to initiate a handshake. In a group, greet the eldest person first.

Those useful hints have been posted on the internet by Aquent, a professional services firm specialising in helping companies make use of people, processes and technology more effectively. With headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts, it operates in 15 countries using nine languages.

The company's attractive website shows just how business people should greet their contacts in those 15 countries. Amusing animated drawings illustrate the text.

Aquent says that in Australia a handshake is the preferred greeting. Men refrain from being too physically demonstrative with women. When speaking to an Australian, keep an arm's length distance from the person. Maintaining personal space is important in this culture, and eye contact should be maintained as well.

And in the US, it says, firm handshakes should last 3-5 seconds. Good eye contact shows interest, sincerity and confidence. When greeting multiple people, make eye contact with the person whose hand you are shaking, and then go on to the next. A smile is a sign of friendliness, and in rural areas you may be greeted with a "hello" rather than a handshake.

* These useful tips were copied with Aquent's permission. You can see amusing animations for the 15 countries, by clicking on AQUENT.

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Story first posted June 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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