For anyone conducting their business internationally, being aware of and understanding cultural differences is often essential for success. Issues such as directness, cultural values, and punctuality vary across countries, and expressions can have very different meanings in foreign cultures. By researching a country’s culture and customs first, you can impress and gain the respect of your international colleagues, helping to build relationships which will be crucial to the growth of your business in the new market.
Communication in business is key, and small differences in culture can make international negotiations confusing for both parties, or worse, offensive. In some countries such as the United States and Germany, disagreement is expressed directly. This is very different from other areas of the world, where businesspeople tend to be more subtle when saying no. In many countries in East Asia, open disagreement is seen as disrespectful, and use of indirect language, such as “maybe”, is used to express dismissal.
Even before negotiations take place, it would be wise to be aware of communication differences. Meetings often take a different tone depending on where they take place. Many cultures value personal connections, and businesspeople wish to get to know you before engaging in business. On the other hand, some cultures prefer to skip the small talk and get right to business, which can lead to misunderstandings and lost business opportunities.
It is important to get started on the right foot when entering a new market, and cultural awareness is very important in communication. Whether it is finding out if you should give a handshake or bow, or if gift giving will be expected, researching these topics can give you the upper hand in your business dealings. globalEDGE offers a variety of resources to assist you in gaining more knowledge about other countries, specifically in the country culture pages and global resource directory. Check them out to help build your cultural awareness!