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The etiquette of business

Teaching MBA students cultural dos and don'ts

By Peter Walker for CNN

Which fork? Business etiquette is increasingly important.


FT's Executive MBA Rankings
1. Wharton, U.S.
2. Hong Kong UST, China
3. London Business School, UK
4. Instituto de Empresa, Spain
5. Fuqua, Duke, U.S.
6. Chicago GSB, U.S.
7. Columbia, U.S.
8. Kellogg, U.S.
9. Stern, NY, U.S.
10. Cass, City University, UK
Source: Financial Times 2006



Executives taking the top EMBA courses in the U.S., Europe and Asia have average salaries of around $130,000 to $200,000.

A typical EMBA student is likely to be aged in the early 30s, with 6-10 years of working experience.

A top EMBA course can cost $100,000. Customized courses start at a few thousand dollars.


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(CNN) -- As well as mastering marketing, finance and leadership, new students arriving for the Tippie School of Management's full-time MBA have been learning a series of other vital skills. For example, which fork do you use for salad?

In a pointed example of the importance of etiquette and cultural understanding in today's global business world, students at the Tippie School, part of the University of Iowa, received some very specialized training during their week-long orientation program in mid-August.

The school drafted in etiquette guru Lydia Ramsey to show the 60-strong class how to conduct themselves during a business meal.

Ramsey, based in the proudly polite Southern U.S. city of Savannah, Georgia, runs a consultancy which offers a wide range of business conduct courses, bearing names like "Dining for profit: is that your bread plate or mine?" and "Inter-office etiquette: what are you doing in my cubicle?"

While seemingly trivial, matters such as formal dining are important to learn, the Tippie School stresses, especially when students come not only from across the United States but also countries such as China, Russia, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan and India.

"This isn't training the students for high tea with the queen," said Gary Gaeth, associate dean of the Tippie School.

"Because so many of our students come from so many different countries, they come with significant differences in their cultural backgrounds, especially in areas like etiquette.

"However, they come to our program to learn transferable business skills. The etiquette luncheon is one of the things we do during the orientation week that helps to make the student comfortable in business settings so we can communicate effectively with each other."

Global etiquette

It is not just about making sure non-US MBA students learn the manners and mores of the world's biggest economy.

Schools around the globe are increasingly aware that the modern-day executive has to be comfortable doing business anywhere.

Thus, those staying in guest bedrooms at the management school of Britain's Cranfield University might have wondered about the painted arrow on the ceiling -- it points Muslim visitors in the direction of Mecca.

Cranfield is among a series of business schools to have used the services of Dr Jehad Al-Omari, an academic from Abu Dhabi who helps prepare MBA students for doing business in the Arab world.

In his lectures, and books such as "The Arab Way: how to work more effectively with Arab cultures," Dr Al-Omari warns against the Western practice of rushing into business, stressing the importance of personal relationships and hospitality.

'Hospitality in the Arab culture can be described as the mother of all virtues, the cornerstone of all social interactions," he explains in the book.

"To the Arab mind, hospitality is not a luxury, or something that we can extend selectively but it is a must, whether the guest is a friend or foe, whether they arrive announced or suddenly, early or late."

One institution takes this all a step further -- the Euro-Arab Management School in Granada, southern Spain, was established in 1995 with the specific aim of improving business co-operation between the two cultures.

Set up by the European Union and League of Arab States, the school has as its stated ambition "playing a catalytic role in bringing the Arab business community closer to the European community and enhancing cooperation and social promotion."

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