As the world shrinks, leaders are expected to lead teams consisting of professional people living and working in cultures spread around the globe. As a result, inevitably and innocently, cultural differences cause misunderstanding.
I can illustrate how easily this can happen with just a few examples. Below are nine gestures, expression, and behaviors that can get a leader into hot water. There are many, many more. But let’s start somewhere.
Doing so suggests bad luck, because the word for “four” is similar to the word for “death.”
It’s an insult to some men’s masculinity.
It’s taboo. The left hand is reserved for bathroom duty.
Always offer and accept cards with both hands and treat them with respect.
It’s considered rude.
It’s an insult equivalent to the finger in the United States.
Some Hindus revere the cow, the source of leather.
The Quran forbids men to make physical contact with women other than family.
The word “ride” refers to the sex act. Offer her a lift.
The cultural landscape doesn’t have to be a minefield of potential missteps. Here are four things you can do right now to navigate the world as safely as possible.