Modern etiquette: international greeting customs

Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:10pm EDT
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(Pamela Eyring is president and director of The Protocol School of Washington, which provides certified professional etiquette and protocol training. Opinions expressed are her own. PSOW's website is

By Pamela Eyring

WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!) - In business, the first thing we do when we meet someone is shake hands.

While it seems simple enough, this "first impression" greeting sends a powerful message about you and your respect for others.

For the most part, the western-style handshake is the accepted form of greeting in the international business world. However, the manner in which it is performed varies from country to country.

Your understanding of the subtle, and not-so-subtle, differences, as well as the traditional greetings of a country, conveys a great deal. It sends a message about how you view and value a culture and whether you respect your colleagues and potential partners.

The Bottom Line? Failing to be sensitive to this "first impression gesture" can have a lasting negative effect on your future dealings.

Try to avoid looking anxious while waiting for your cue. While most international encounters begin with a western handshake, followed by the county's traditional greeting, it may just end after the western greeting.

When doing business outside the United States, make sure you shake hands with everyone you greet and greet everyone in the room. Failure to do so is considered a rejection of those you omitted, and will be noticed.   Continued...

<p>A passenger (R) from the Georgian Airways flight from Tbilisi, is greeted by an unidentified man as he leaves the custom zone at Moscow's Domodedovo airport after landing January 8, 2010. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin</p>