Lesson #3: Why Being Humble is Important in International Business

This week I’m sharing with you the third lesson in flexibility I’ve learned on my international travels.

Lesson 1 and Lesson 2 for “5 Keys Lessons in Flexibility for International Professionals” have already been released.

Click here to access Lesson 1.
Click here to access Lesson 2.

Lesson #3: Be Humble

Having humility is crucial if you want to assimilate and integrate effectively in another culture.

We all have our own cultural background, our own set of rules and cultural values that dictate how we act and how we interact with others. These cultural values guide us to know what is right and wrong, what is polite and impolite, and what is acceptable and unacceptable in our culture.

Notice that I said, “in our culture”. Why? Because what is polite in our culture isn’t necessarily polite in another. What is acceptable in our culture, isn’t necessarily acceptable in another.

Let me present you with a simple, everyday example:
When you pay for an item in a store in the US, UK, or even Australia, where do you place the money? On the shop counter or in the hand of the shop attendant? Going by my experience and my cultural upbringing (Australia), the most polite thing to do is to place the money in the shop attendant’s hand. When you place the money on the counter, the shop attendant has to pick up the coins one by one. It’s inconvenient, bothersome and most likely, they’ll get annoyed you didn’t place the money directly in their hand.

Whereas if you pay for an item in a store in Japan (and this can probably extend to other Asian countries), if you place the money directly in the shop attendant’s hand instead of the counter or the money tray, you would be considered ill-mannered. In those cultures, it’s impolite to directly exchange money with somebody hand-to-hand. Instead, whenever you give money to somebody, it needs to be placed in a money tray if you’re at shop, or in an envelope if it’s for a friend or family member.

The rules for everyday interactions and even more advanced interactions in business can change drastically from culture to culture. The rules you know and grew up with based on your cultural background aren’t necessarily right or polite in another culture.

When you travel to another country for business or even for a holiday, be humble and approach that culture knowing that your way of doing things isn’t always the right way of doing things. Be open to a different way of doing things. If you go in with this mindset, then you’ll be able to adapt to that culture much faster. And, you’ll leave a better impression.

Lesson 4 of this article will be released in one week. You can wait until next week for lesson 4, or you can join the Executive Impressions’ weekly newsletter and access all 5 lessons plus and audio version right now.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox