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    Carey Smith on Signing with a Hug

    This week I had the pleasure of being involved with the signing of our first Indian retail real estate business which will be located in Delhi, India.  The signing ceremony was attended by the Chairman of our company together with our Financial Controller and the two parties from India.  As we sat down and talked about the final stages of the Agreement, we were about to sign and the Indian parties said “we just need to hold for a moment”.  They went to the corner of the room and had a short discussion then they came back and we all proceeded to sign the documents. 

    We then exchanged the documents, and I then went to shake hands but immediately the senior person from the Indian delegation got up, came around to my side of the table and gave me a hug but held on for longer than I expected.  He then went around the table and did this with each person in attendance from our side.  I suddenly learnt that expressions of gratitude are very much part of a cultural understanding and while the agreement will remain as part of confirmation that we have a relationship, the gesture to bring his culture to ours seemed to give the agreement and the relationship so much more.   The way we do things is to shake hands – I wonder what that would have meant to them?


    I ask him later why did he have a short discussion before he signed – he said to ensure the order of gratitude.

    Today I went to the Northland area which is located approximately 500km north of Auckland.  I walked into the meeting and being a Sunday I was in business attire but without a tie.  One of the owners said to me “its nice to see you come to Northland and dress in Northland style”.  It was a comment that threw me back to the agreement signing of the agreements with the people from India. 

    We all have our culture, we build our families, our businesses and our values on culture. 

    Now I am not sure that after I sign my next agreement that I will go instinctively hug the person I have just made that agreement with, but, how much do we know culturally about the people that we are communicating with, that we are transacting with, and that we are making relationships with?

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