Being new to a different country or work, one of the foremost things that I always did to know and stay connected with people that I value in my profession is ‘Networking’. Be it on social media or in real life.
As much as I love going to HR/Recruiting networking events and state SHRM conferences, I will not miss an opportunity to meet someone from the locations where I travel for vacation too. There would always be someone out there that you already know on Social Media. Talking about it, I had a wonderful time meeting @Victorio_M last month during my one week vacation in NewYork.
I adore those friendly times that I can get with people who inspire me. During networking events and conferences you meet some of your old friends and make new friends mostly during the parties and after hour gatherings. And you want to get the most of it and build a relationship with the people who you target. But one thing I have noticed and wanted to share with you all that – ‘[Tweet “Cultural differences can get in the way of how you want networking to happen”]’.
Here are some of the Networking Bloopers that can happen due to Cultural differences!
Are you a hugger or not?
Being an Indian, now transplanted to USA, one of my unique experiences is interacting with diverse people from various state SHRM conferences. And the etiquette over here to greet a woman you know is – to hug – that person. Comparing to India we don’t have that practice at all unless it is your parents, siblings or close family members. That is the way we express our love.
So believe me when I interacted with people over here in the beginning I was kind of reserved. Even after knowing the etiquette most often I extend my hand for a handshake and almost forget to greet the way people expect to. So don’t get offended if you are interacting with someone from a different culture. Things might happen in a different way but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t respect your culture. It might take a little while for them to get accustomed to a different culture.
Now the interesting thing that I noticed among my American friends, who know India culture a little bit, is they wait and ask ‘Can I give you a hug?’ Which I feel is thoughtful.
Do you like to small talk?
This is something I am still trying to learn. I am so amazed to see how people spark a conversation through simple things that happen in their everyday life. Be it asking how did your day go or about the super bowl game or anything that comes to their interest, likes and dislikes etc. American small talk is so predominant that it often considered as your ability to create a quick sense of rapport and how easy and comfortable you are with others. And it is very vital for building relationships.
Want to know why it is so hard for me/ an Indian to master small talk. In india we do more of formal communication and that too with a strong emphasis on social hierarchy. And it is often considered as impolite to openly express your opinion because if it conflicts with other person’s opinion then that can affect your relationship. If you noticed the interaction with an Indian, the first thing they tend to bring in is about work. Because for us it is considered as inappropriate to talk about personal information to people we don’t know or don’t have a close relationship with. So I was little conscious about people perceiving me differently.
Should you drink and mingle?
With most of the HR conferences you attend there is always a cocktail party or after hour gathering.. And chances are you look boring and less fun when others have a glass of drink to loosen up and you don’t. When one of my friends offered to buy me a drink during SHRM13 conference party my response was spontaneous. ‘No, I don’t drink’. You don’t want to be in that awkward moment where everybody has a drink on their hand while socializing and you were left behind.
So how do you stay in these networking parties and still show your fun side?! I would always choose a glass of soda with lime in it. If they have coke that would be wonderful and all I need to do is to be who I am as a person. People are going to respect that.
And I understood, I didn’t have to take it too hard on me. All I needed to do is to just be myself and respect the differences among the people around me. Embrace the unknown culture, try to learn it and demonstrate mutual values.