How to Reach Mutual Cultural Understanding in International Business

Cultural understanding is an aspect of international business that really isn’t “business.”

It’s more of an understanding which helps to improve relationships between you and your foreign counterparts. This is important in countries such as Japan, where going out with your coworkers after work to a bar is a common occurrence. By understanding the cultural aspects of the country you are working in, it will improve the communication you have with business people from that nation.

Learn About the Cultural Differences

Before conducting business in a foreign country, do your homework. Learn about how business works in that country, as well as their norms and values. By figuring out these things before hand, you will be able to change the way you communicate with business people from that country. For example, in countries such as South Korea, their society is much more collectivist then the society we have in the US. Because of this, when talking to South Korean people, instead of using the pronoun “I”, use the pronoun “we.” So instead of saying “I can bring these skills to help your company,” say “My company and I can bring these skills to help your company.”

Respect and Accept These Differences

You don’t want to believe in the stereotypes that are portrayed in the media about your foreign counterparts. If you use stereotypes, then you most likely are going to be making incorrect assumptions on how business works in that country. Instead you want to take what you learned from doing your research on their culture and expand on it. This is very important for expat executives in foreign countries. A great way to avoid using stereotypes is to get to know your counterparts. See how the people and company operate in that country and why it works. Then you can try and implement those same good processes that work in that country, into your management style.

The key thing to remember is to not force American culture onto your foreign counterparts. This is because you are in their country and are trying to do business in their country. You wouldn’t expect guests who come to your house to act like they own your house. Apply that same logic into international business. You need to adapt to succeed.

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