The past few decades have forever changed how the world works – with ultimate connectivity, the global market has become more accessible for all business types and even individual entities. Although we’re already proficient in global connectivity, we haven’t had time to adjust it to our respective cultures; however, given the fact that cross-cultural and multinational teams are becoming increasingly common (as they should be), we need to adjust to doing business internationally and overcome the cultural differences.

Introspection

Not a whole lot of seminars about cultural equality in business will tell you this, but the quest for cultural tolerance is rather ridiculous – tolerating isn’t enough – it cannot be identified with acceptance, let alone understanding. To truly accept our peers, we need to start considering them for what they are – our equals.

The very root of changing the perception about various cultures lies in looking at your own self – for instance, the fact that a Muslim will perform their own religious practices at certain times during the workday will be strange to you – and this is normal. The essence here is not only trying to act ‘cool’ about it, but truly realizing that the people of other beliefs, customs and practices feel the same about the way you are.

In business, accepting your ignorance, and asking for a brief introduction from your international partner is the best thing you can do – being too proud and acting like a know-it-all will reflect poorly when your peers notice it – and they will.

True communication

Okay, so language is the foundation of communication and the vast majority of businesspersons have accepted English as the de facto default business language. Nonetheless, in business (and many other fields), communication isn’t based on language only, you just rarely notice this at home – because  reactions such as facial expressions and the general communication vibe are pretty much autonomous.

Talk to a Finnish entrepreneur, and you’ll be amazed at their brevity and directness – to an American, this type of communication may be considered rude, but in Finland, it’s perfectly normal.

Another good example would be talking to a Hindu businessperson – if you thought you were aloof and relaxed, try matching the nuance and indirectness that are easy to find in India.

Learning to read people’s reactions is a true art from that is mostly gathered from experience – the more often you go international in your business doings, the better an entrepreneur you’ll become.

Handling cultural differences

So, how do you handle doing business with your first international associate? Well, first of all, you should make sure that your businesses are a match. While this used to be impossible a decade ago, platforms such as 2 Easy can help you find all the matching companies, according to your specifications.

Secondly, always do your homework, when it comes to your contact’s culture. This is important even if they are completely ignorant with regards to your culture – it gives you subconscious leverage.

You shouldn’t forget about what sets your two (or more) respective cultures apart. Sure, avoiding the subject will help you avoid uncomfortable situations, but it’s these situations that lead you to bonding with your peers, in terms of collaboration.

Likewise, be careful about your own reactions – knowing how a member of a particular culture might perceive you will help you achieve a better connection. For instance, the Asian people tend to be very adamant and rarely discuss anything other than business during business hours – talking to them about the night you’ve just had might not inspire confidence in your peers. Be careful, but be open.

Finally, find an intermediary that binds you. Sure, you may not be a match culturally, but other experiences in life that aren’t culture-related do exist. For instance, you might not agree on each other’s dietary choices, but you might’ve had a shared experience, or have the same or similar interest, goal, hobby, etc. Focus on what you have in common, rather on that which sets you apart.

The thing with doing business on an international level is that it will make you a better, more open person, who isn’t afraid of other cultures. The road to this might be paved with good intentions, but it is definitely a rocky one. Keep in mind that it’s not all about the language, learn to look at yourself and find what other cultures might find weird about your customs (you’d be amazed, actually) and always look to bridge the cultural differences.

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