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Business across cultures 101

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are – Anonymous.

This adage holds weight when we consider the cultures of another country. We view it from lenses tinted by our culture and the experiences we have had in the world and this sometimes leads to us making stereotypical judgements of others. But how can we remove these tinted glasses and build strong, healthy, mutually beneficial business dealings with all countries?

1. Learn about your cultural competency

We all see the world differently and it is crucial to acknowledge this. This quiz will help you to evaluate your cultural competency and hopefully lead you to become more curious about those around you.

2. Study the new culture

Before you travel to the new country, it is important to do some research about the culture. You could get a general idea of doing business in countries by visiting these sites:

Another more advantageous way is to speak to a person who is originally from the country and ask them about business etiquette in the country. You could also get some general knowledge about the country by looking at guidebooks about the country.

3. Ask questions, don’t make assumptions

When you are confronted by a behaviour which is different to what you usually expect it is important to ask people about it. Ask someone who comes from that culture and who you trust to give you an honest comment on what happened. Don’t assume they mean ill when in fact it may be a non-verbal action that is interpreted differently between the two cultures.

4. Avoid stereotyping

By stereotyping individuals in a culture, you may pre-judge the individual according to standards or beliefs which are not true for that individual. Therefore it is critical to keep an open mind when meeting people in the beginning.

5. Be adaptable

When interacting with other cultures, they may work in a different way to you. It is important to be adaptable to this new way of doing business. You may work in a culture where they want to know the why behind an action you requested and may not just follow rules without being given more information before they take action. Therefore your management style may need to change between the different cultures.

6. Respect each other

Finally, what it all boils down to is respecting each other. Make an effort to understand the other culture and show this through learning some common phrases in the language and also trying to understand some of the non-verbal cues you will encounter.

By following these six steps you will be well on your way to building strong healthy business relationships with your foreign colleagues.

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