Amber & Co - South Asian Business Etiquette: Cultural Awareness is Essential

South Asian Business Etiquette: Cultural Awareness is Essential

More than 600 new immigrants have landed in Canada per day since 2006. Vancouver is home to nearly half of visible minority (41.7%). South Asian is the second largest population in Vancouver after the Chinese. The high concentrations of South Asian residents are found in Surrey, Richmond, and Abbotsford. The article "How well do you know Canada’s largest ethnic consumer group?" in the Marketing Magazine illustrated some facts about this vibrant consumer market

Generally, immigrants from South Asia quickly accept many Canadian cultural patterns, but they maintain a core of continuity in business practice. There are certain customs and expectations that you are expected to follow. For example, do you know that you should always present your business cards with you right hand as it shows a sign of respect, confidence and sensitivity? This short guide illustrates a few cultural facts and their influence on business etiquette.

Business is hierarchical. It is important to deal with the people who are in the hierarchy as they are most likely the decision makers. In a family-owned business, the decision maker may be a senior family member behind the scenes. Thus, the most senior figure at a meeting should be greeted first.

When addressing someone you don't know well, use last name with the appropriate formal title, such as Professor, Doctor, Mr., Mrs., etc. Although hand shaking is an acceptable gesture, you may consider giving the “Namaste” greeting. It is a slight bow of the head with the palms brought together at chest level.

Keep in mind that negotiation process could be time-consuming when dealing with South Asian businesses. You can expect a great deal of discussion and many long meetings. Decisions are most likely made at the highest level and it’s commonly slow and lengthy. Thus, it is important to be flexible and exercise patience.

When speaking with South Asian, it’s not common to hear “no” because it’s considered rude due to the possibility of causing direct confrontation or humiliation. The notion of “losing face” is important. Consequently, a clear “no” should be avoided and disagreements need to be expressed tactfully, especially in group situations.

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when doing business with South Asian is definitely the cultural differences you will certainly encounter. The more you understand their culture, the easier you can refine your approach and improve your chances of success tremendously. If your business is trying to reach South Asian market in Vancouver, cultural awareness is essential.


June 5, 2014
Posted By Amber Liu

Tags: Business Etiquette, Cultural Marketing, South Asian, India, Vancouver, Richmond, Surrey.