globalEDGE Blog - By Tag: cultural-differences-series

The reality of cultural diversity exists not just on the international business scene but also within an organization. As such, if they are to truly make use of the increasing opportunities and benefits that the global economy is providing, they have to make sure that their employees have sufficient intercultural competence. Communication is imperative for success in the business world, and most people would think of the language barrier as the largest hindrance. However, I’m here to argue that just knowing the local language will not help you be successful in an international setting.

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On almost any business team, confrontation is something that is part of every meeting. It is a way to get ideas out on the table, and usher in new innovative solutions. Even at the university level, students are taught how to confront peers in correct ways, to empower team members and not scare them off. However, in the context of a team made up of multiple cultures, this typical American stance on confrontation could be viewed as downright rude and inconsiderate.

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In the modern era of global markets and international working opportunities, record numbers of employees of both small businesses and large corporations have embraced the expatriate lifestyle to work abroad. Despite the noticeable increase of expatriates in the past decade, there was surprisingly very little information regarding the differences between working domestically and abroad, which lead ORC Worldwide to conduct a 2007 survey which explored the differences that an expatriate experiences while trying to balance their career and other life obligations. The results of the survey provide an excellent insight into what changes someone looking to work and live abroad should expect, as well as the potential challenges that they should be ready to overcome.

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As discussed in yesterday’s introduction post, different cultures have very unique ways of doing business; from business dress, to conducting meetings, to even the customs surrounding deal-making. Each nation takes a unique approach to how many holidays they observe; this is a reflection of their distinctive culture and can affect their economy and business environment. In today’s fast-paced, ever-changing work environment, each day off means less output which in turn reflects potentially lost money. Days off are important for worker’s mental and physical health, but there needs to be a balance between productivity and a conducive work environment. The amount of bank holidays that a nation celebrates could be impacting the economy more than you think.

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With 196 countries across the globe and over 7 billion people in the world, differences in culture can be seen almost anywhere. In an increasingly interconnected world, people with different cultures can be found in a country nearby or even in your hometown. As a business person, student, or global citizen what does this mean for you? It simply means that understanding different cultures is becoming incredibly important in our daily lives and for business success on a global and even local level. Understanding cultural differences provides a unique competitive advantage and allows teamwork to thrive in almost any situation regardless of where you might be in the world or who you are working with. This is critical for proper communication and is especially crucial for international business.

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