Why knowing about different cultures is important in business?
Being able to communicate effectively with people from different cultures is key when doing international business. Knowing or not knowing how to deal with cultural differences can create or break important deals for your company. The vast majority of your international success will be determined by the quality of your communications and your ability to build good working relationships with others.
In what ways culture affects international business relationships?
Religious customs and laws
Direct or indirect communication styles
Hierarchy in corporate cultures
Personal-space and contacts
Attitude towards time
Attitude towards age
How to effectively prepare for your international communications?
Your cultural communication will begin with your very first contact, either via email, phone or in person. However, you must before this prepare yourself to deal with the possible hurdles that will come along the way. Here are some tips:
Print new international business cards
Consider hiring a consultant with local knowledge and country expertise
Be prepared to follow proper cultural protocol if you meet in person
Know cultural negotiation style prior to contract negotiations
Learn how to pronounce names correctly
Learn when to use first vs last names
Tips to successfully deal with an international communication
Your primary goal should be to develop trust, which will greatly help your business relationship to be developed in the best possible way. It is a long process that takes time. It means investing extra hours to ensure quality time with business partners, being professional in every situation and going further than the minimal requirements by showing sincere interest in them, their company and their country. Beyond simply recognizing cultural differences and respecting foreign cultures, putting into practice this newly acquired knowledge will require flexibility and patience. Adapting to the differences of the situation requires having an open mind and embracing the diversity of cultures. Although you might apply your knowledge about Japanese culture to every Japanese business person you will encounter, you must remember that each person is an individual. Avoid generalizing and rather show respect for their person and culture: you will soon discover their own individuality and cultural identity as the relationship develops. There is indeed a wide spectrum of personalities in every culture and, even if you will notice behavioral similarities between individuals, each one of them as his own differences that make them unique.
Tips in international travel
It is important to visit overseas markets, possibly before any transaction occurs. Indeed, many foreign markets differ greatly from the domestic market, and by visiting another country you can familiarize yourself with the cultural nuances that may affect the design, packaging or advertising of your product. A successful business trip typically requires substantial planning. Obtaining proper documentation before any travel is very important: you must have a valid passport, visas from certain host countries and in some instances even vaccination records. If you’re bringing a product for demonstration or sample purposes, an ATA carnet may also be helpful. You should also plan an itinerary, that reflects your company’s goals and priorities, so you can make the best use of your time abroad. Consider getting a travel guide so you can prepare yourself to deal with new cultural habits. Be careful not to overload your schedule, as it can be counterproductive. On the contrary, you should keep it flexible enough for both unexpected problems and unexpected opportunities. You should make sure that you know the normal workdays and business hours in the countries being visited. In many Middle Eastern countries, for instance, the typical workweek runs from Saturday to Thursday. Lunchtimes that last 2 to 4 hours are customary in many countries.