Thanks to the expanding globalization, large and small companies have increasingly easy access to foreign markets. However, not all of them create success story in the global market. According to surveys, cultural differences between home and host countries represent a major factor of failure.
There are numerous ways to define culture but in business context, let’s simply view it as a set of norms and values shared within a society.
In that perspective, we’ll consider the below 4 elements of culture which are most likely to influence cross border business operations.
Language and Communication
Finding ways to break the language barrier is obviously a vital step if you want to successfully enter a new foreign marker. It is important to notice that even English is the most commonly used international language in Business, being fluent in the official local language and/or in the most commonly spoken local language in host countries is truly a communication asset. Want to read about learning a new language? Go back previous post on this subject in English Chronicle No.7
Nonverbal communications such as gestures, silence, attire, posture and attitude are also an important hints that can make you win or lose business in foreign countries.
Hierarchy refers to the established relationship between management and subordinates. The type of Organizational hierarchy and management style that work in your domestic country may not necessarily work in your target foreign area. For example in places like the United States where the power distance is small, managements and subordinates tend to make no difference between each other. It is normal to address the top management by their first name, directly chat with them and frequently socialize with them. At the opposite, titles and surnames are widely used in situations where the power distance is large. Regions where the power distance is large include Africa and Asia. For example it would sound impolite or too casual to address your boss or your new business partner by their first name in these regions.
In most cases, it is not necessary to adopt foreign country religious practice in order to access their market. However it is crucial to respect those practices. Eventually you will have to comply your own business operations with the widely accepted or imposed religious practices. For example, your products or services type, the opening days and hours of your business may need to follow the religious norms. It is also likely that your HR practices will be dictated by the host country religious choices in certain countries.
Time and punctuality
There are different approaches to time across regions in the world. Some countries consider time as very important and precious. People there are mostly punctual and good at reaching targets. Other countries view time as general guidelines and therefore people there tend to be late at meetings or always missing deadlines.
Are you considering relocating or expanding your business into foreign country? Do your homework with “understanding the local culture” as one of your main subjects.
International Business Development Specialist