Frequent business travelling is doing little to break down language and cultural barriers.
A new survey has found that 88 per cent of respondents believe that executives are making more foreign business trips than ever before, and 97 per cent of those say that more effort should be made to learn about business etiquette in other countries when travelling abroad for work. In addition, 96 per cent admitted that knowledge of culture in other countries can make a business meeting much more successful.
Despite this, 68 per cent admit they sometimes feel embarrassed by their ignorance of other cultures, while 23 per cent have personally slipped-up or had a bad experience in business etiquette when doing business abroad or with people from overseas.
Most business travellers say they are confident visiting Western Europe or the United States, yet over half admit they would be daunted by the prospect of visiting countries with a perceived difference in business cultures, such as Japan, Asia or the Middle East.
Only 21 per cent are able to turn their hand to another language with the majority (96 per cent) relying on English as the main language.
Professor Khalid Aziz, chairman of The Aziz Corporation, the survey authors commented: “The fact that top level executives are not sure how to behave when doing business overseas is very worrying for British business. If we are to maintain our position as a leading player in the global economy, we simply cannot afford to be dropping the classic British clanger left, right and centre.”
In some good news, the British consider themselves to be very welcoming to visitors from overseas.
According to the report, the vast majority of business people would feel entirely comfortable doing business with people in a wide range of dress or wearing religious symbols, including a crucifix, head-scarf, skull-cap or turban. Only in the case of someone wearing a burqa, covering the face as well as the body, do a clear majority (85 per cent) believe that they would find it difficult to form a business relationship.