I am going to write something that little bit different today but it’s still a topic that no matter what industry you are in will become of importance. If you are living and working in the U.S you will have come to realize that in most parts of the country, especially California, New York and Washington that it is very diverse.
I feel very, very blessed that throughout my life I have not lived in a bubble but have had the ability and the means to meet many different cultures as i have traveled to many different parts of the world. Some of my visits to different countries have been interesting and some like Russia were just fascinating! (now, that is a different blog entirely!) Even though we are plunged into this wonderful melting pot of life, many people from all over the world find different cultures weird or just different. Is it that they are weird and different, or is it just down to a lack of understanding and knowledge? I feel it’s down to a lack of understanding and knowledge.
The beauty industry is a service industry and we will come across many clients all in wonderful shapes, sizes and cultures. Understanding these cultures is very important when they are in your chair, lying on your facial bed or when networking throughout your industry. Getting to know how they behave and why they do the things they do, can make your life easier in building these relationships and maintaining that bond with them in business.
The Americans are generally very positive people and much more open in conversation about private affairs than many European cultures and the converse of this is that Americans will often, quite naively, ask personal questions at an early stage in a relationship which may be perceived by somebody from a different culture as intrusive. On first introductions, Americans can seem very friendly and solicitous of your well being. This overt friendliness should be taken for what it is – part of the protocol of the language and not as an attempt at establishing a life long friendship, especially when in a business setting.
Humor is virtually all pervasive in business situations. Indeed the more tense and difficult a situation is, the more likely the Brits are to use humor. It doesn’t imply they are not taking situations seriously, it is merely used as a tension release mechanism keeping situations calm. It is better to be self-deprecating than self-promotional. People who are verbally positive about themselves and their abilities may be disbelieved and will, almost, definitely, be disliked. You will not hear them sitting in your chair telling you how wonderful they are!
One striking difference between the U.S and Canada is that communication patterns are much more low key. Reserve, understatement, diplomacy and tact are key attributes and contrast sharply with the more direct approach of the U.S. They still like to be direct and say what they mean. “Yes”, will mean “yes” and “no” will mean “no”. Canadians see evasive language as suspicious and would prefer any problems to be put on the table for discussion.
The Chinese find it hard to say “no”. Saying “no” causes embarrassment and a loss of face and it is better to agree with things in a less than direct manner. Be wary of phrases such as “yes but it might be difficult” and “yes, probably”. It’s also difficult for them to deliver bad news and this is often done through the use of an intermediary to help soften the blow. They tend to be impassive and lack overt displays of body language. This doesn’t mean they don’t show their emotions, or that they lack emotion, it merely means Westerners are not skilled at reading it across the cultural divide.
Emotion is not suppressed in business situations and discussion can appear heated and at times acrimonious. An outward show of emotion is seen as positive and implies engagement and emphasis. Their body language differs from North American and Northern European body language. They stand much closer together and have stronger eye contact than in many cultures. It’s important to not be intimidated by these issues as a lack of strong eye contact could be misconstrued as standoffishness or even untrustworthy.
So on that note, maybe the next time you get some nice little Chinese lady in your chair you might need to do a bit more on the convincing front as to why you think she would be better off with a new hairstyle if you kept hearing her say “yes probably”! If your new boss at the spa is Mexican don’t run for the door when he stands too close to you, and when the Canadian skin care rep cannot get your delivery on time, her nice diplomatic ‘no’ will almost definitely mean ‘no!’ The friendly American may lie down on your facial bed and start asking you what your husband does for a living within five minutes of being there and then last but not least (of course we wouldn’t put ourselves first!) is the British. Now, when the British chick like myself laughs at you when you say something she doesn’t quite understand….she’s actually laughing at herself!