42% of respondents across five countries put off by a weak handshake

42% of respondents across five countries put off by a weak handshake

LONDON, June 7, 2015 /PRNewswire/ —

Research into business meeting and greeting etiquette on behalf of London City Airport reveals:

  • 34% of UK women have been called ‘love’, ‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’ in a meeting
  • 38% of Brits have felt awkward or uncomfortable handling greeting etiquette
  • Irish least likely to greet business associates with a kiss
  • Swearing is worse than lateness in Italy
  • Checking a mobile phone is worse than swearing in Switzerland
  • 42% of respondents across five countries put off by a weak handshake

A YouGov poll on behalf of London City Airport, the UK’s leading business travel airport found that, regardless of gender, many of us struggle with appropriate business greetings – more than a third of Brits (38%) who have ever attended a business meeting have felt awkward or uncomfortable about the way they were greeted.

Compared with our European counterparts, 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%). Our Irish neighbours are more aligned with the UK, with 36% having felt awkward or uncomfortable.

The traditional handshake is no safe bet, with almost a third of working Brits (32%) saying 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%)

British women are more likely to have felt awkward or uncomfortable about a business greeting than men – 53% compared to 44%.  One third (34%) of UK women who have attended a business meeting have been called ‘love’, ‘darling’, or ‘sweetheart’ and felt it inappropriate, with ‘love’ the most common (26%).  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%) who currently attend business meetings 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%).  The Irish are the least likely to greet with a kiss – just 12%.

London City Airport, known for its high proportion of business passengers, commissioned the survey to find out how people feel about business greetings and how feelings differ between nations.  Declan Collier, CEO of London City Airport explained:

“People travel through London City Airport every day to do business in Europe and we all know that first impressions count.  If the encounter is awkward or you are distracted by how you’re going to greet the person then that vital first impression could be affected.  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 un-fresh breath.

As a result of the findings, London City Airport has issued three top tips for getting it right with business greetings at home and abroad:

  1. Remember your manners – Swearing might be fine in your office but keep it out of the meeting room. You might not mind being called mate or darling, but the person you’re meeting could take offence, so keep it professional.
  2. Dont get lost in translation – the subtleties of grammar can trip you up when trying to speak another language. In Italian, there is a formal and an informal way of saying ‘you’. In most business scenarios, Italians use the formal version.  It’s a similar story in Spanish.
  3. Do your homework – etiquette differs between countries. In Switzerland business associates tend to use surnames, even when well-acquainted.  Those who do kiss in Switzerland do so three times.  In Spain, men usually take the lead from the woman. She should make it clear whether she’s going to shake hands or lean in to kiss cheeks.  Research the local business etiquette.



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