Today more cultures work together in business than ever before. Never has it been more important to get business-etiquette savvy when working with foreign countries than now.
Conducting business within an unfamiliar environment can be a potential minefield of professional faux pas and cultural indiscretions. The way you do business can be make or break in any location but can be harder to get right when out of your cultural comfort zone.
It can be easy to make the assumption that the basics of international business culture are the same across the board, but even at this level of interaction there can be significant differences. Take the handshake, for example. In the West this is a much-used way of formally greeting someone and is used abundantly in business. Certainly, if you offered your hand to a Japanese businessperson you would likely receive the handshake that you are accustomed to, but if you had bowed, as they do, you will have made that all-important great first impression. It can be subtleties such as this that can form the best business relationships across cultures.
It’s not only important to know about the way other cultures do business, but why they do business that way. As more and more diverse cultural groups work together, there can be conflict with cultural differences and values. The precedents set early on in business meetings and the like, can continue on throughout all organisations. The knock-on effect of this being that all levels involved have a healthy cultural awareness and cross cultural communication is vastly improved.
As always, preparation is key to improving your chances of successfully conducting business across cultures. Reading up on the way business is done in the target culture as well as attending seminars and training sessions, can provide invaluable information.
What it comes down to is respect. Taking the time to educate yourself about a culture, to show an interest in another way of working and to be happy to go that extra mile to make your business associate feel comfortable, is crucial to a healthy business relationship.