This post is inspired by the news today that Michelle Obama shook hands with the new Saudi King; King Salman bin Abdulaziz. They were there to pay their respects to the late King and to meet the new leader. During the receiving line, Michelle shook hands with the new King. Better than hugging him, as she did with our Queen Elizabeth!
There are strong Islamic rules about men meeting women other than family members in private and they must not touch any part of a woman’s body, if they are not related to them. The rule though is generally overlooked for visiting diplomats. Many female diplomats have visited Saudi in the past and they have all shaken hands with the King; Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Madeleine Albright to name a few.
It is important when travelling on business to understand the cultural norms in the country you are visiting. It is so easy to offend if you have not done your research. In our ‘Business Etiquette’ training we have covered all the do’s and don’t for the countries that are often visited on business and there are some surprising facts that we uncovered. It is real a mark of respect to observe the cultural norms and is seen very favourably. When we went to deliver training in Hong Kong and Shanghai it is customary to take a proffered business card with both hands and then really study it – a little different to how we behave in the UK. I personally like that tradition, it feels very respectful.
In meeting the Saudi dignitaries, Michelle waited to see how the man reacted. If they offered their hand she shook it and smiled and if they didn’t she just smiled and nodded her head. She was therefore respectful of their culture and played it just right.
Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA – Managing Director, First Impressions Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI) She is also Director of Regional Events at FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke training and workshops or one-to-one coaching. First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK and in 20 countries around the world– to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.firstimpressions.uk.com