Global Business Etiquette Book Review

Global Business Etiquette by Jeanette S. Martin and Lillian H. Chaney was my required textbook for a college course. I do also run websites which have a global audience, so I had hoped these would also provide insight for me in how to work with people from around the world. While the book has some interesting basics, there are also some issues here.

Global Business Etiquette First, it's important to note that the book is from 2008, so many things become dated quickly. Countries change, the reach of the internet grows, and what might have been true could now be quite different. That being said, I found much of the book to be fairly stereotypical, without any sense that what they state is always conditional. They state that ALL people from X like close personal space. ALL people from Y talk loudly. ALL people in India do anything at all? How could one generalize for such a massive country?

It's always tempting to make these kind of sweeping generalizations. It makes life easy. However, I happened to read this book while traveling through Europe and I found that even the most simple generalizations presented here were incorrect. It wasn't the standard in France for people to eat sandwiches with fork and knife. A friend of mine in Saudi Arabia reported that many of the generalizations presented about that region simply weren't true.

Toasting with water is bad luck, so people drinking water have to be left out? Maybe decades ago, but in our modern people many people choose not to drink alcohol. They toast with whatever they have, and that's fine. And that's coming from a person who runs wine website.

Yes, it's good to have some grounding on how caste and class work. It's good to realize that there ARE differences in how loudly people like to speak, how close they like to stand, how comfortable they are with different topics, and so on. But I found the book's presentation to be one that could lead people wildly astray. And what's intriguing is I think most people wouldn't even realize it, if they read this without actually being somewhere. They'd just nod and say "Oh interesting! If I ever went to Saudi Arabia I shouldn't discuss a man's wife!" They'd have no idea that my friend in Saudi Arabia finds this to be quite untrue.

And then there's just silly other things. The section on travel says it's an absolute no-no to wear sweats while traveling. What, they want you in a suit and tie? On a twelve hour flight? I'm sorry, but my health takes precedence when I'm traveling. I've traveled quite a lot and never had an issue with it. I've met some amazing people, too. And they, also, were dressed for comfort.

Finally, the book will list random countries and talk about their stereotypes - but if for example you actually wanted to use this for travel you never get enough information even about the ones mentioned. So there's no way I'd use this as a substitute for visiting an up-to-date webpage about that one country in particular and studying it. If I am going to France, I go to French websites to read up on the current situation. I don't rely on an old book which provides only glimpses of stereotypes which are no longer true.

Even if they came out with an update of the book with their 2013 thoughts, I'm not sure that would be better. They only glimpse cultures, and they often provide only a glimpse of what some people do in that culture.

I would much rather the book be a theoretical one on how people differ, to help people be generally aware of the issues. Cover speaking volume, and how to be aware of the environment you're in. Match to its volume whatever it is. Don't assume it will be X or Y just because they're in a certain country. There are always sub-groups. The book could talk about how far apart people stand and how it's not a global constant. That again you should look at how people are handling it in your area and match them.

So I would rather the book talk to someone who has never traveled and say "these assumptions you have about life, they are just one view. Here are other views you should consider." That way people are prepared to be aware. But I don't think the book should then say "and where you're going to, THIS is the way it will be." Because it simply won't always be true, and making an assumption is often worse than being aware and seeing what it really is like.

I purchased this book with my own funds for my college class.

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