By Marcela Jenney-Reyes
How does personal branding “translate” around the globe in other cultures?
Blending in with Body Language
Many of us know that in some Asian countries a forward bow is the accepted form of greeting, rather than the Western handshake practiced in American and European countries. International business texts remind us to be wary of the differences in body language and gestures between countries, as an innocent symbol for “great” in one place could be taken as offensive somewhere else.
Body language varies around the globe and between cultures, and familiarizing yourself with what is normal in a country that you are visiting, or a group of people for whom you are giving a presentation, will be tremendously helpful, if not absolutely essential for success.
Blend and stand out. Notice how Shakira, a brunette at birth, died her hair blonde when she made the cultural crossover from Colombia to the U.S. This physical change was significant in helping her better blend into American culture. If you are in a foreign country, learn and practice the typical body language and gestures of the locals. This will not only help you better communicate with them, but will also help you become immersed into the local community. Instead of being looked at and treated as an ignorant foreigner, you will get points for embracing the norms, and thus people will be more sympathetic, respectful, and open to listening to what you have to say.
Don’t alienate yourself by feeling like a foreigner. For the last ten years, the Irishman Benny Lewis has been traveling the world and learning its languages. Lewis, fluent in 10, stresses the importance of learning the local body language and gestures of the countries he visits. One of the first things he does when traveling to a new country is learn these gestures, and with this knowledge he is able to blend into the local community—though he may not even know the language! The people he meets tell Lewis that they feel he is a native of the country he is visiting, and he finds no difficulty in befriending them. The key to body language is subtle “social cues.” Communication far exceeds what is possible verbally, so being able to interact on a level that is deeper than that is important.
International personal branding means reaching out to cultures that are different from your own and adapting to your audience while maintaining your authenticity.
Marcela Jenney-Reyes, MBA is a global marketing expert, business coach and consultant with over 20 years of experience. Her clients include language service providers, entrepreneurs and business professionals from culturally diverse backgrounds.