Posted on : October 30, 2017
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Professor Jean Vanhoegaerden (Hult Business School), talks about the opportunities for learning provided by contact with other cultures. ‘Because we think that we know others cultures, and because we have a natural tendency to judge other cultures, we make mistakes in our assumptions and miss some possibilities for learning from those cultures. Respect and an open, curious attitude enable learning and having fun when dealing with other cultures. Global organizations face potential stumbling blocks when it comes to culture and international business. While there are a number of ways to define culture, put simply it is a set of common and accepted norms shared by a society. But in an international business context, what is common and accepted for a professional from one country, could be very different for a colleague from overseas. Recognizing and understanding how culture affects international business in three core areas: communication, etiquette, and organizational hierarchy can help you to avoid misunderstandings with colleagues and clients from abroad and excel in a globalized business environment.’
  1. Communication: Effective communication is essential to the success of any business venture, but it is particularly critical when there is a real risk of your message getting “lost in translation.” In many international companies, English is the de facto language of business. But more than just the language you speak, it’s how you convey your message that’s important. While navigating cross-cultural communication can be a challenge, approaching cultural differences with sensitivity, openness, and curiosity can help to put everyone at ease.
  2. Workplace etiquette: Different approaches to professional communication is just one of the innumerable differences in workplace norms from around the world. Along with differences in etiquette, come differences in attitude, particularly towards things like workplace confrontation, rules and regulations, and assumed working hours.
  3. Organizational hierarchy: Organizational hierarchy and attitudes towards management roles can also vary widely between cultures. Whether or not those in junior or middle-management positions feel comfortable speaking up in meetings, questioning senior decisions, or expressing a differing opinion can be dictated by cultural norms. Often these attitudes can be a reflection of a country’s societal values or level of social equality.