Intercultural business communication these days requires skills which everyone involved in the business world should learn. With the rapid world’s globalization processes, knowing how to behave with your clients, partners, and even team member from other countries is essential. No matter how professional and acceptable your behaviour may be considered in your own country, the culture you were raised in is probably completely different from the culture your partners are coming from.
Undoubtedly, every person doing business in this century should consider expanding their business beyond the borders of the homeland. The key for a successful intercultural business communication is proper preparation. These essential tips will help you prepare when reaching out to international partners and engaging with international markets.
Actively learn about other cultures
The first step is to actively seek information about the country you plan to have a business partnership with. Every country has different traditions and principles which you need to follow when you initiate a meeting. If you have colleagues who have engaged with different cultures, ask them for guidance. It’s a plus to learn about a culture from someone’s personal experience.
Take an interest in the county’s history, values, and symbols during the actual communication. Your willingness to learn about the country’s culture will be highly appreciated and will make the hosts flattered. In the long term, this approach creates strong business partnerships and shows the other party that you really care.
One more factor you shouldn’t neglect is understanding the law of your potential partners’ country. The law dictates the manner in which these people conduct business. Never assume that the laws in the particular country are the same as the law in your country.
Observe and understand your partners’ behaviour
A lot of the learning comes from observing the behaviour of people who belong to different cultures. Observing, understanding and acquiring the manner in which your international partners behave is key for the successful intercultural business communication. It will also help you create strong long-term partnerships. For example, it’s perfectly okay to speak louder in the USA but you should keep your voice down in Japan. It’s fine to address your partner by their first name in the USA and Canada but never in the UK, France, Germany, and Russia. Interruptions are allowed in Brazil but not in Canada and the USA. Learn more about the business etiquette around the world.
Adapt your marketing material
The history knows plenty of examples in which global companies have used different marketing approaches in presenting their products to audiences from the different parts of the world. And this is perfectly normal. What is acceptable for one culture, might be completely outrageous for another. It’s extremely important to do your homework of what is acceptable in the country whose market you are planning to enter. It’s also crucial to double-check you marketing materials for lexical errors or word choices that could be misinterpreted. Giant brands like Nike, Apple, McDonalds, etc. set perfect examples with their cross-cultural campaigns of how to adapt messages to different cultures. So, no matter the scope of your business, going international certainly requires adaptation of your marketing approach.
Different verbal languages have always been considered barriers for intercultural business communication. If you don’t speak a particular language, it’s normal to experience difficulties making partnerships in that country. Hiring a good interpreter or learning an internationally used language such as English, will open many doors for your business and will certainly make intercultural business communication more effective. Also, learning a few phrases in the particular language will make a really positive impression. When communicating in written form, you can also use the service of translators although it may make the communication slower. Learn more about the advantages of online communication.
Body language and gestures, on the other hand, may have similarities across cultures but also require a previous research. Fox example, a handshake is a well-acceptable gesture of agreement in many cultures but pointing with your index finger might be misinterpreted in some cultures, e.g. in China and Japan. The hand sign for OK is widely used in the USA but it might be understood as showing a zero in other countries. Showing thumbs up and thumbs down is usually understood correctly across nations but you never know. When it comes to intercultural business communication, the rule is to use gestures really sparingly, especially if you are not sure how they would be interpreted.
Intercultural business communication is inevitable in the century we live in. However, in order to create strong, successful cross-cultural partnerships, you need to take the time and prepare for the way you’ll conduct intercultural business communication. Some cultures across the world may be similar but other may vary greatly, so proper preparation is obligatory. We hope we’ve been helpful with this guidance.