Minding your manners In Europe Minding your manners In Europe

Minding your manners In Europe
31 Aug 2017

From Iceland in the west, Russia in the east, Norway in the north and Malta and the Greek islands in the south, the 50 countries of Europe are home to more than 730 million people. With such a huge geographical spread and an immensely diverse landscape, it is little wonder that business etiquette differs so significantly between nations.

Here we consider the culture and etiquette of four of the region’s most note-worthy economies: European Russia, Germany, Norway and Greece. 

Norway

Norway is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its key areas are the vibrant capital of Oslo, the Stavanger region with its fjords and mountains and arctic Troms0 with its famous 'right-to-roam' law, which means you can pitch your tent anywhere and enjoy the great outdoors to your heart's content.

Another law that is embedded in Norway's culture is that of Janteloven, a social norm that requires its people to be humble and not consider themselves important than others. It is crucial to be mindful of this situation when interacting with Norwegians in a professional environment.

Moreover, because Norway is one of the most feminine societies in existence, you will find that interaction is gentler than in other countries and that co-operation and understanding are always favored. Having said that, communication tends to be quite explicit, so, you will find that clients and colleagues appreciate opinions being expressed in a direct and clear way.

Finally, because well-being is valued over status managers’ and visitors are expected to respect employees' work-life balance.

Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning two continents and 11 time zones. The majority of Russians live to the west of the Ural Mountains as Siberia in the east remains largely uninhabitable.

This former Soviet state has an ageing population and intriguing culture. With high power distance or acceptance of inequality, organizations tend to favour traditional top-down styles of management, and status symbols are highly coveted.

Russia is also characterized by a strong work ethic. One study found that 88% of Russian parents believed the most important value for their children to cultivate is hard work compared to Germany's 22% and Sweden's 4%.

In business situations, expect Russian colleagues and clients to be passionate about their work and, paradoxically, relatively modest when talking.

Germany

A Country of more than 10,000 towns and cities with no less than 41 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient beech forests said to offer an insight into the original European landscape, Germany is a cosmopolitan country with a relatively formal culture. For example, as there is a clear distinction between work and home life, it would not be usual to be i11vited to a business associate or new colleague's home, at least tu1til the relationship had developed further.

Germans assign their careers and personal performance a high priority, with much self-­ esteem derived from professional success. But that is not to say that they all work late every night as good organization and planning tends to be the 11am.

In the workplace, expect a very direct and candid communication style, not 0nly from leaders but within teams too. Respect for leaderships important, but Germany has low power distance, which means there is little tolerance of inequality.

Greece

Greece, which comprises more than 2,000 islands of which only a few are inhabited, also has a mountainous landscape and the largest coastline in Europe. But the country likewise offers a unique cultural and business environment.

On the cultural side of things, great importance is placed on personal connections. Meeting in person is always preferred and your body language will determine whether you make a good impression or not.

While a handshake and direct eye contact are standard when meeting someone for the first time, hugs and a kiss on both cheeks usually progress from there. Personal space is smaller than in many other countries and physical contact more common.

In terms of gestures, it is also sensible to verbally state your response as Greek gestures differ from those of other countries. 'No' takes the form of an upward nod and 'yes' involves tilting your head to each side.

Moreover, Greeks avoid ambiguity at all costs and are demonstrative, open and sociable. As a newcomer to a business, invitations to socialize are quite normal and, in this collectivist culture that values the extended family, you may well receive invitations to dine at a colleague's home. It is important to accept such invitations as developing connections in this personal way are at the root of Greek culture.

 

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a private company specializing in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for organizations and private clients across a wide range of sectors. It has offices in London, Delhi, Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. Prior to founding the business, Paul worked in sector leadership roles across Europe, the US, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.

From Iceland in the west, Russia in the east, Norway in the north and Malta and the Greek islands in the south, the 50 countries of Europe are home to more than 730 million people. With such a huge geographical spread and an immensely diverse landscape, it is little wonder that business etiquette differs so significantly between nations.

Here we consider the culture and etiquette of four of the region’s most note-worthy economies: European Russia, Germany, Norway and Greece. 

Norway

Norway is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world. Its key areas are the vibrant capital of Oslo, the Stavanger region with its fjords and mountains and arctic Troms0 with its famous 'right-to-roam' law, which means you can pitch your tent anywhere and enjoy the great outdoors to your heart's content.

Another law that is embedded in Norway's culture is that of Janteloven, a social norm that requires its people to be humble and not consider themselves important than others. It is crucial to be mindful of this situation when interacting with Norwegians in a professional environment.

Moreover, because Norway is one of the most feminine societies in existence, you will find that interaction is gentler than in other countries and that co-operation and understanding are always favored. Having said that, communication tends to be quite explicit, so, you will find that clients and colleagues appreciate opinions being expressed in a direct and clear way.

Finally, because well-being is valued over status managers’ and visitors are expected to respect employees' work-life balance.

Russia

Russia is the largest country in the world, spanning two continents and 11 time zones. The majority of Russians live to the west of the Ural Mountains as Siberia in the east remains largely uninhabitable.

This former Soviet state has an ageing population and intriguing culture. With high power distance or acceptance of inequality, organizations tend to favour traditional top-down styles of management, and status symbols are highly coveted.

Russia is also characterized by a strong work ethic. One study found that 88% of Russian parents believed the most important value for their children to cultivate is hard work compared to Germany's 22% and Sweden's 4%.

In business situations, expect Russian colleagues and clients to be passionate about their work and, paradoxically, relatively modest when talking.

Germany

A Country of more than 10,000 towns and cities with no less than 41 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient beech forests said to offer an insight into the original European landscape, Germany is a cosmopolitan country with a relatively formal culture. For example, as there is a clear distinction between work and home life, it would not be usual to be i11vited to a business associate or new colleague's home, at least tu1til the relationship had developed further.

Germans assign their careers and personal performance a high priority, with much self-­ esteem derived from professional success. But that is not to say that they all work late every night as good organization and planning tends to be the 11am.

In the workplace, expect a very direct and candid communication style, not 0nly from leaders but within teams too. Respect for leaderships important, but Germany has low power distance, which means there is little tolerance of inequality.

Greece

Greece, which comprises more than 2,000 islands of which only a few are inhabited, also has a mountainous landscape and the largest coastline in Europe. But the country likewise offers a unique cultural and business environment.

On the cultural side of things, great importance is placed on personal connections. Meeting in person is always preferred and your body language will determine whether you make a good impression or not.

While a handshake and direct eye contact are standard when meeting someone for the first time, hugs and a kiss on both cheeks usually progress from there. Personal space is smaller than in many other countries and physical contact more common.

In terms of gestures, it is also sensible to verbally state your response as Greek gestures differ from those of other countries. 'No' takes the form of an upward nod and 'yes' involves tilting your head to each side.

Moreover, Greeks avoid ambiguity at all costs and are demonstrative, open and sociable. As a newcomer to a business, invitations to socialize are quite normal and, in this collectivist culture that values the extended family, you may well receive invitations to dine at a colleague's home. It is important to accept such invitations as developing connections in this personal way are at the root of Greek culture.

 

Paul Russell is co-founder and director of Luxury Academy London, a private company specializing in leadership, communication and business etiquette training for organizations and private clients across a wide range of sectors. It has offices in London, Delhi, Visakhapatnam and Mumbai. Prior to founding the business, Paul worked in sector leadership roles across Europe, the US, Middle East and Asia. A dynamic trainer and seminar leader, Paul has designed and taught courses, workshops and seminars worldwide on a wide variety of soft skills.

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