Cultural differences and Business

To succeed in international markets is essential to be aware of the cultural differences. Each country and culture has its own cultural standards of being, thinking, and acting, and these differences can influence business communication.

The differences are not only socio-politics or regarding regulatory frameworks. They are present in everyday life, in the way that people communicate, dress, interact and the non-verbal communication.

If you want to sell products and/or services to foreign market, it is critical to understand how your prospective customers behave, which factors affect their purchasing decisions in order to target them effectively and enhance your chances of success.

Business Etiquette

It is also relevant to build a rapport with business partners and stakeholders and to do so you and your team must be able to understand their business ethics and negotiation procedures. Business etiquette involves greeting manners, negotiating styles, attitude to time and body language among others. There aren’t right or wrong attitudes, just different approaches that should be taken into consideration when dealing with international stakeholders.

The straight forward style of the Americans is considered too aggressive by oriental cultures. The Japanese instead have several rites in negotiation. They don’t give clear, straight answers and during meetings and discussions, they say “Yes” only for rite’s sake, to avoid disharmony with their counterparts. But this does not mean their acceptance to the proposal.

The body language varies from country to country and being able to understand it and adopt manner suitable to the specific culture will help you to get a positive reaction. One example of cultural differences in business between western countries and Middle Eastern countries is the different connotation attached to hand-shaking. For westerners it is a cultural signal that represents mutual understanding and agreement and, therefore, it takes place at the end of negotiations. In the Middle Eastern culture, it is a cultural sign that ‘serious’ negotiations are just beginning.

Overcoming Cultural Barriers

Learning the skills of proper etiquette, manners, and intercultural communication is the just the first step. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Besides an exhaustive research before any attempt of doing business in international territories, companies should rethink their business operations and adapt their management and marketing mix to the particular market. If you respect the social ethics and business norms of the specific market, you are more likely to achieve success.

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