When traveling for business internationally, understanding cultural differences in business can go a long way in furthering both your career and your company’s goals. While some confusion can often lead to amusing misunderstandings, it can also make a serious impact in terms of views and perceptions. When traveling with a guide, he or she should always be your main source for information. Never fear asking questions. However, when traveling alone, avoid cultural conflicts and make a good impression whether it be at a meeting or showcasing your best business dinner etiquette.
Business partners appreciate your efforts to make a good first impression, and dressing for the occasion is the first step. Business suit and tie are acceptable in every office environment for men. It’s best to adapt your attire once you have a feel for the environment. For women, the general consensus is to dress conservatively on the first day and observe the situation. If traveling to a country where it is customary for women to cover their hair, it is considered good practice to wear a headscarf. Even if it is not a part of your own religious beliefs, it is a sign of respect for local customs.
The way that people communicate varies across the globe. Understanding cultural differences in business communication can provide telling insights and help to facilitate conversations. In some cultures, it is considered normal to be loud and direct, even if it means interrupting others in mid-sentence. For others, people may be soft-spoken, use flowery language and wait patiently for others to finish. When attending business meetings, observe the general way that people communicate and pay particular attention how others communicate within the corporate hierarchy.
When traveling internationally, it will become immediately apparent that different cultures have different valuations of time. For some, setting a meeting time or mealtime is more of a general suggestion than a strictly allotted amount of time. For others, it is considered rude if you don’t arrive early. When first working within a new culture, it’s best to first be punctual and gauge your business partner’s view.
No matter the culture you’re working with, the best way to earn respect is to always be prepared. While seemingly obvious, small things such as slowly acclimating your body clock to avoid jet lag or showing up to the office early to get a lay of the land can go a long way. It shows a respect for your business partners and demonstrates a commitment to the task at hand. Understanding cultural differences in business isn’t always straightforward, but your commitment to the task at hand will always shine through.