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How to Network Across Cultures (Los Angeles)

Picture this: You are at a networking event and see across the room a potential employer from a company you're interested in. You walk over to that person, look him in the eye, and say the following:

"Hello, I noticed that you're from IBM. I'm very interested in IBM and would love to give you a sense of my background."

I recently posed this scenario to a group of foreign-born professionals in the United States and then asked whether they believed that according to American cultural norms, the person's statement was:

(a) Too direct
(b) Not direct enough
(c) Appropriately direct

I also posed the same question to a group of American-born professionals, and the answers from the two groups were telling.

All the American-born professionals in the room answered (c), that the statement was appropriately direct, and was a reasonable way to begin a networking conversation in the United States.

The foreign-born professionals, on the other hand, saw the situation quite differently. A few with extensive experience living and working in the United States agreed with the Americans. However, the large majority didn't, answering (a) — that the behavior was too direct and assertive for an American-style networking event.

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