How to leave a favorable impression with internationals
There is a new buzz phrase associated with diplomacy. The phrase is not completely synonymous with the idea of new diplomacy, but it is close. The phrase is soft diplomacy. Soft diplomacy refers to the notion that you relate to people on a personal level and learn differences among one another through conversations and experiences. It is effectively, citizen diplomacy. An idea that peer-to-peer interaction has a role in world issues.
Whether you are an international living abroad or you hang out with internationals within your country, I’d say that there are a few important aspects of making sure that you leave a positive impression and not just a mediocre one, or worse off, an insulting one. That is just the trouble with dealing with foreign cultures; it isn’t always so easy to relate to everyone. As you read this article you may enjoy my article about talking politics abroad.
In this article, I try to teach some of the tips for relating to internationals that I have learned in my experiences.
1.) Reciprocity – Reciprocity is probably one of the most important ideas in this list. It represents the notion that if you are given something, you should always return the favor. The idea of gifting, or giving gifts, is quite common in many cultures. When you are invited into someones house, you should always bring a gift of some sort. Doing this, let’s them know both that you appreciate them and you are willing to contribute. If someone goes out of their way to do something for you, never forget that deed. Even simple gifts such as fruits, wines, cheese, or anything of the sort, is appreciated. Don’t show up empty-handed.
2.) Respect of culture – Showing disrespect to any culture is a quick way to get blacklisted. If there is ever a time when you disagree with a cultural norm, the best way to express it is not to ignore it. Therefore, always make every attempt to adhere completely and attentively to the local culture, or culture of the house. For example, always remove your shoes where applicable. I remember one time when myself and some others were invited into an Afghani household for coffee. The lady of the house, asked us to remove our shoes, but then retracted just accepting our culture as different allowing all to enter. Several of us removed our shoes out of respect. Several of the others did not. I did it because it was her house, not mine, even though it was not in Afghanistan.
3.) Learning attitude – Be a learner with your friends. People appreciate people who not only respect differences, but people who are interested in learning about them. Ask questions and listen to what others have to say. Take in alternative perspectives and see how someone else views life.
4.) Attempt at language – Attempting to speak the language of your friends, is a very easy yet effective step at showing them you care. It also helps with maintaining a learning attitude. I realized long ago, if you want to see someone really smile, drop a phrase in their native language. This is especially effective when they do not expect you to know anything of their language (i.e. a more rare or difficult language). Spend some time learning their language, and it will go a long way.
5.) Seek commonalities – With anyone you meet in life, you have to seek commonalities. No matter how different two people might be as far as personality or life outlook, there is always at least a few things that link them together. Find common ground between peers and look for ways to build bridges. What bonds you?
- Always remember, your audience is everything. People change, customs change, what is considered normal or acceptable, most certainly changes. Be adaptable and flexible.
- What is considered to be an acceptable gift will vary quite drastically depending on the region that a person comes from. Therefore, it may help to do some reading. Though typically, it is true that it is the thought that counts.
- A little language can go a long way. Try to learn a few phrases in each language you can. Which phrases should you learn? Check out my big 5 phrases here.
What are your thoughts?
How do you leave a good impression with internationals or people who you meet?
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