Understanding and adapting to cultural differences in business is essential to ensuring international success. Each year brings more opportunities for businesses of all sizes to work internationally as the world grows increasingly interconnected. As a company that has built international relationships for decades, we have long learnt that education means success. Coming to a practical understanding of local laws, customs and behaviours truly makes the difference when it comes to building and maintaining international relationships. This cross-cultural know-how is imperative to going global and staying global.
Culture is multifaceted and incredibly layered. As the owner or an employee of a business that is internationally established – or looking to become so – it is important to understand the cultures of the countries you deal in. This is necessary for both B2Bs and B2Cs, whether for respectful behaviours in a business meeting or in building brand loyalty with customers internationally. In this blog, we will look at some of the most common cultural differences internationally and how to stay professional wherever you are.
Do Your Research
Before someone can conquer any business meeting, they have to do their research on the company or person they will be dealing with. This is especially true when looking to work with someone from a different cultural background. For a meeting, do your research on acceptable customs, mannerisms and gestures. For a service or product launch in a foreign country, do the research on your potential market. Gain an understanding of any existing competitors, customer demand and of gaps in the market you may be able to capitalise on. Doing your research will definitely help you in all aspects of international business.
Communication is key to the forging and maintenance of good relationships in business. While language is important, delivery is just as necessary to get right. Being aware of volume, intonation and gestures will ensure you come across in the right way while improving your understanding of the unobvious and help you better understand the intentions of the person you are working with. While communication is important in meetings and other face to face business encounters, it has value in other fields too. Communicating well with customers abroad is just as important as as with customers at home. Make sure you can speak their (cultural) language. This will result in more successful advertising and engagement that leads to conversions.
In many countries all over the world, a firm handshake is a mark of professionalism and mutual respect. In others, a soft handshake is more suitable. Eye contact is always important – so it is imperative to get that right. Good eye contact is not only a mark of respect, but it’s a mark of confidence too. A good level of confidence can take people far, as it signals a belief in yourself and in your business. When it comes to physical interaction, it is good to remember to be mindful about physical touch and closeness. Assess your relationship with the person you are interacting with. Do you know them well enough to sit beside them? Or is sitting across the table a better option? Is a good handshake respectful, or is it best to not touch at all?
Cultural differences certainly do not have to be a hindrance. When understood and respected, these differences could truly bring people together in a positive exchange of norms and behaviours. This exchange can result in a real competitive edge over your competitors and can lead to a maximisation of profits.