No Kissing on the First Meeting

16 Sep

On a typical morning this past summer, you could’ve found me prancing into work at Goya Foods, the nation’s largest Hispanic owned food company. Dodging my desk and heading straight toward the staff kitchen, a bunch of familiar faces greet me, offering loads of Cuban coffee, hugs, and kisses—it’s not a proper greeting without the smooch.

Granted, my office experience was a-typical.  The company’s core clientele are heavily un-acculturated Hispanics, and I worked in Miami, which is the most heavily ethnic sector. But nationwide, the face of the workplace is changing.

The 2010 U.S. Census revealed that 1 out of every 6 adults – and 1 out of every 4 babies born annually – is Hispanic. Additionally, this demographic will account for 95% of teen population growth by 2020, so when these kids grow up and enter the workforce, they will heavily impact workplace communication.

Hispanics are generally passionate about what they do; they’ll pour their heart into their jobs, but may also show unwelcomed affection toward coworkers, unaware of the potentially disrespectful implications of their actions.  I ask you to go easy on them – their handshake will get better by the day, and a hug every once in a while can’t hurt.

Timeliness presents another challenge in the Latin American workplace. My advice is that if you have Hispanic clients, schedule your appointments half an hour earlier than you actually want business to get started. No one will be offended; quite a few of my family friends have sent out wedding invitations this way.

On the other hand, the present generation is expertly adaptive. Cultural duality is their reality, and effective connection with both Anglo consumers and first-generation Americans is invaluable for any company. Hispanics in the US have become the 15th largest consumer economy in the world, and our nation’s fastest growing companies are those with heavy international engagement.

Offering a kiss when someone seeks a handshake may start any relationship off on an awkward note (I would know), but if both sides abandon their comfort zones, the ability to communicate boundlessly will prove very advantageous in business.

by Natalia Ortega

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2 Responses to “No Kissing on the First Meeting”

  1. Madeleine Parker September 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    Great job Nati mixing both your own personal experience with census data. Understanding the differences in intercultural communication plays a huge role in positive business relationships.

  2. Adam Solomon September 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

    I like your title; it really grabbed my attention. I wonder if the Hispanic practices you mentioned (hugging and kissing coworkers, arriving later than the scheduled time) will one day be common practices in America since the Hispanic “demographic will account for 95% of teen population growth by 2020.”

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