Oops, You Forgot to Say “Buenos Dias”

The little nuances make all the difference in intercultural communication.  Subtle gestures and courtesies “when they’re shared in a culturally sensitive and respectful way enhance communication.  However, work pressures can make us forget the courtesies and revert to our own cultural norms, unless we’re careful.

While in the International Practice Group of Baker Botts, I spent the fall of 1994 working as a foreign visiting attorney in the Mexico City offices of Santamarina y Steta.  One night I left the office still mulling over a complex legal problem.  The next morning I burst into the office of my Santamarina counterpart and gleefully proclaimed, “I’ve got the answer!”  I started to unravel the legal mystery when my counterpart held up his hand to silence me.  “Buenos Dias, Janet,” he said firmly, “How are you?”  I paused and smiled.  First things first.

We sat for a few moments exchanging pleasantries.  Only then could the work begin.

Lesson learned:  When in Rome¦

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