Brits are famous for their diffidence and Hugh Grant stumblings and a survey of business travels reveals that 38% struggle with appropriate business greetings.
Compared to our laissez-faire European counterparts, uptight Brits are far more likely to feel out of their comfort zone than respondents in Italy or Switzerland (8% and 10% respectively), rising to a little under a quarter in Spain (23%), according to a survey by YouGov on behalf of London City Airport.
The traditional handshake is no safe bet, although almost a third of working Brits (32%) said that a weak handshake would put them off doing business with someone. However, we are more forgiving than other European nations on this matter. On average 42% of respondents across all five countries agreed they would be put off, rising to two thirds of people in Italy (63%)
One third (34%) of UK women who have attended a business meeting have been called “love”, “darling”, or “sweetheart” and felt it inappropriate. More than a quarter of UK men (27%) have been called ‘mate’ in a meeting and felt the same.
The increase in popularity of kissing as a business greeting could go some way towards explaining the awkward experiences, with one in five people in the UK (19%) having greeted female business associates with one or more kisses (22% of men).
It would appear that we have tried to embrace our inner Mediterranean, however we still have a long way to go, as three quarters of people in Spain have greeted female associates with one or more kisses (75%) and more than a quarter in Italy (28%).
London City Airport CEO Declan Collier, CEO of London City Airport said: “We all know that first impressions count. By understanding how business people across Europe feel about greetings we can approach meetings with more confidence and a clear idea of what will be expected.”
Although the survey found that an average of almost one third of Europeans (31%) now greet female associates with one or more kisses, a quarter of those who have been greeted with a kiss said that they find it unprofessional (25%). In fact, 22% of Brits said they try to avoid it altogether, along with 20% of respondents in Switzerland.
The survey also looked at things that give a bad impression in business meetings. Bad manners, body odour and arriving late came out on top in each of the five countries, with the exception of Italy where swearing was considered worse than tardiness.
In Switzerland, a person checking their mobile phone in a business meeting would give a worse impression than swearing, while in Ireland, untidy clothing would be worse than smelly breath.