“Have you eaten?” vs. “How are the kids?”

“Have you eaten?”

“How are the kids?”

Depending on your cultural background one of the statements above is considered friendly conversation during the business day and the other is considered awkward.

For American-influenced cultures it is commonplace to seek out personal information as a part of expressing friendliness during business.  Inquiring about how family members are doing is a normal part of your initial greeting and engagement.  In contrast, asking if you have eaten seems like a very strange question.  Whether or not you’ve eaten is rarely a first world concern; as a topic of conversation it seems odd.

For Chinese-influenced cultures, inquiring about personal family matters is awkward and may be considered rude.  Instead, a semi-rhetorical question of “have you eaten,” often permeates greetings.  Much like the American query of “how are you,” this is a standard part of saying hello in a friendly way.

As a change agent, we find ourselves working across multiple cultures on any given engagement.  Keep cultural differences in communication in mind as you approach each new engagement.