The Rebirth of the Old fashioned Email Etiquette

I am a member of The FENG, the secret society for Financial Executives … ;-). One of the daily emails I recently received from this society addressed etiquette in writing a cover letter when responding to a job ad and the effect this could have on the response you receive, if any.

It reminded me of a comment a former colleague of mine made to me in my first German start up back in the late 90s. She said: "Are you really this mad at Gunnar?" I looked at her, puzzled, and asked what she was talking about. She went on to say, "You wrote an email without a greeting or ending. In Germany if you send a one line email it means you are mad at the person and it is considered rude." Still astonished and with a sinking feeling of horror I replied, "Of course I'm not mad!" and I went into damage control mode. What I know now - and what I didn't know then - is that there is a code of etiquette around the world in writing emails. I have had the privilege of living and working outside of my home country now for the past 13 to 14 years and in this time one of the very basic things I learned early on was email etiquette.

It is actually quite simple. You start with a greeting "Dear Mr./Ms. Smith, Hi Soandso-san, Goodmorning Hr. Grabenstruddle", you ask them if they are having a good day, you get to your point and you end with a simple "Best Regards, Sincerely, Mit freundlichen Gruessen, etc" and then sign your name. Sound ridiculous or superfluous? Actually, it's not. In the US one liner emails are more than common. This is how people communicate, or lack there of. However, throughout the rest of the business world I have found in every culture I have worked in outside of the US, which are many, people find this offensive, rude and in some cases it will end up black listing you. "Bill, what is the point?" I have been asked many times. Simple answer? Respect. First, in their culture using greetings as I describe above is commonplace. Second, it shows that you, as a foreigner, have taken the time and have given them the respect of writing an email in the style and format they are accustomed to.

So, as you venture into expanding abroad please remember that deals are won and lost in the details. Respect is always a winner! :-)


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