Behave Globally!

International Instructor Narbeli Galindo Helps Bridge Culture Gaps

Growing up the daughter of an international diplomat in Geneva, Switzerland, Narbeli Galindo’s life was full of world travel and exposure to many cultures from her earliest years.  When she moved to the United States, Galindo took it for granted that most people would have the same international sensibilities that she did.

She quickly realized this was far from true. “I’ve always been in an international environment,” Galindo said. “Cross-cultural communication is second nature to me.”

Galindo currently teaches international finance, international management and international marketing at the UMKC Henry W. Bloch School of Management. She has an M.B.A. in international marketing and management from the Thunderbird School of Global Management, is the Managing Director for Narbeli’s Imports LLC., and is first vice president of the International Trade Council (ITC) of Greater Kansas City.  She is multi-lingual in French, Spanish, English and some Japanese.

Galindo’s deep appreciation for the importance of understanding between cultures as an imperative piece of successful international relations, particularly in business, led her down a career path in the corporate world as an international Financial Analyst and Senior Marketing strategist as well as global business owner and corporate cross-cultural consultant. Now, in academia, she can bring her experience into the classroom and the boardroom to help others learn about, and prepare for, international experiences and global careers.

“When people study a foreign language, or international business, or finance, or any international subject matter there is often one key component missing from their education: understanding the high importance of varying cultural norms and etiquette that will allow them to succeed or set them up for failure,” Galindo said.

“You can have the best company, product or service, but if you are pitching it in another country and you so much as use an incorrect gesture or word, however inadvertent, thus offending the people you’re meeting with, it can destroy the entire opportunity.”

Galindo has lived and worked in more than 20 countries throughout her life and career. Today, Galindo uses her global business expertise in foreign culture with governments, agencies and embassies to help corporations, organizations and individuals (like faculty and students) learn how to navigate cultural differences and avoid cultural mistakes.

She has done custom consulting for major Kansas City firms, including Garmin, Sprint, UMB Bank, Burns & McDonnell and many others who have expanded or want to expand their corporations internationally.

Through the ITC, she is launching a program in February 2013 called “How to Get Started in a Global Career”. The program includes partners from area universities as well as area corporations. Essentially, the program is designed to take the “unknown” out of going global – fear of that unknown is often what keeps people from wanting to travel or work abroad.

Starting with the basics, the program covers topics that cover the “what, when, how and why” components of starting a global career.  The program will unite key educational institutions and corporations, with panels of speakers set up to provide global expertise and advice to students and others interested in an international career path.

In addition to teaching several international business and finance courses to both students and corporations (through the Bloch School’s Executive Education program), Galindo prepares custom, in-depth resource guides and presentations for specific companies’ particular needs.

For example, if a company wants to expand into Colombia, Qatar, Malaysia, South Korea and India, Galindo prepares lists of resources (things most people don’t know exist, such as links to web sites that explain in detail what to expect when doing business in that country, how to utilize the embassy, etiquette expectations in various situations, political climate, and many more).

In addition, she provides detailed tables with tips on etiquette expectations for that country – everything from how to behave during in a meal setting to appropriate greetings and gift giving, as well as what to wear and how to behave in meetings, all focused particularly on cultural dos and don’ts.

But Galindo doesn’t just teach those people who are going overseas – she is also passionate about helping the University faculty, staff and administration become more globally aware. With close to 1,000 international students on the UMKC campus, Galindo feels it is just as important for campus personnel to learn how to better understand, communicate with and help international students by better understanding their culture.

“It is my goal that during my time at UMKC and the Bloch School, I will see a significant increase in the number of students, faculty and business leaders who have an understanding of different cultures,” Narbeli concluded. “I hope to play a part in making UMKC a more global school, and to instill in people a sense of excitement and desire to get involved internationally and pursue global careers.

Do This Not That: Global Business Etiquette Tips

  • When dining in China, eating all of your food (or “cleaning your plate”) may be considered a challenge of your host’s generosity: You may find your plate filled repeatedly once empty!
  • In India, do not place your hand on another person’s head (for example, a small child), as that is where the soul is believed to reside and touching that area is considered invasive.
  • In India, “Namaste” is the traditional greeting, with the palms of hands pressed together in a praying position, about chest high accompanied with slight bow forward. Greet the eldest or most senior person first.
  • Only use your right hand to touch food, other people, and so forth as the left hand in India is considered to be dirty.
  • In Qatar, punctuality is not considered particularly important (but as a foreigner, your punctuality may be expected).  Men will hug, kiss and even rub noses as an acceptable greeting.
  • In South Korea, Meetings often are held in the evenings in restaurants or bars. As meetings commence, members should enter the conference room in order of importance.
  • Colors and numbers all hold varying significance in different cultures. For example, red pen or red typeface is considered threatening.
  • Don’t use slang or American colloquialisms – they don’t translate in other cultures. Europeans strongly dislike the word “ain’t” because it is not proper English. Use of slang can confuse and offend.
  • In Colombia, avoid topics such as drug traffic, politics and religion. Instead, talk about their incredible Gold Museum, talented soccer team and delicious coffee. It’s common to receive a warm and friendly handshake, done frequently, especially on arriving and departing often accompanied with an abrazo or hug, with a couple of claps on the shoulder or back.

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