Magazine article Workforce

Culture Quiz

Magazine article Workforce

Culture Quiz

Article excerpt

Test your culture know-how. How would you react under the following circumstances?

1. As your new colleagues Habib and Asma arrive at the dinner table, you stand up, shake their hands, and offer them a glass of wine. Both look puzzled.

Unless they have a long-standing relationship, men and women generally don't greet each other freely when meeting for the first time. A Muslim man would not extend his hand to a Muslim woman unless she is sufficiently Westernized. Also, Islam discourages the use of alcohol.

2. Meaning to be of assistance, you lean to your left so that you can more easily reach the tray of sweets to pass it to your friend, Mohammed. He recoils back when you offer the tray to him.

Traditionally, the left hand is reserved for personal hygiene. Passing food, important papers, or touching someone with your left hand is considered rude.

3. Negotiations haven't been going smoothly. You've been sitting for a long time at the table, and you are hot and cramped in your Western business suit. You take a deep breath, lean back, and cross your legs-ankle over knee-appreciating the ability to get casual for a moment. Suddenly, your Indonesian colleague seems even more distressed than before. Showing the sole of your shoe to someone, intentionally or not, is an insult because the sole touches the dirty ground.

4. You accidentally walk into your colleague's office midday and observe he's praying.

If you interrupt a Muslim colleague during prayer time, just quietly excuse yourself. Be flexible about allowing people their time to pray. Many Western com panies provide a prayer room for these purposes.

Source: Berlitz International Inc.'s cross-cultural divison in Princeton, New Jersey (

A slight bow or dipping of the head is a sign of respect when someone is being introduced to you.

Eye contact patterns often require lower-ranking individuals to look down or away from their supervisor's eyes. …

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