I was reading the news over the weekend about the banning by al-Shabab (the islamist group that controls a region of Somalia) of handshakes between men and women. This is the same group that banned music. Under the same law unrelated men and women are not allowed to chat in public or walk together. This law is obviously beyond the acceptable to most people, but it got me thinking about a conversation I had in Bahrain once. I was at a conference and happened to be standing with a female attendee when we were introduced to someone important. He shook my hand, but not hers. Later on, at an official dinner, she challenged him on this as showing a lack of respect to her. He responded with “actually madam I don’t shake your hand out of absolute respect for you”. These issues form part of the workshops I run on doing business internationally, and throw up a lot of debate about the rights and wrongs. In my opinion it’s the biggest challenge when doing business internationally. It’s about getting the balance right between accepting other cultures and challenging unacceptable behaviour. Usually in business you’ll be dealing with others who are used to working internationally. A little bit of effort usually works wonders!