Since the advent of globalization, more companies are expanding their business partnerships, business ventures, and teams all over the world. With the blending of several cultures and customs under one business, this sparked an international conversation about cultural differences and intercultural communication, which is how different cultures verbally and nonverbally communicate with each other.
Small businesses and large businesses alike can benefit from working with intercultural teams and learning about intercultural communication. Not only does it provide a vast diverse knowledge base, but it also helps provide new solutions and approaches to business problems. However, international businesses also face potential pitfalls when it comes to communicating with other cultures that aren’t their own. Here a few ways intercultural communication affects business and how to avoid potential problems.
Communication is important in any business, but it’s even more important when different cultures come into play. Even if everyone is on the same page by speaking the same language, differences in nonverbal cues can affect communication, and could possibly hinder your business outcomes.
For example, in some cultures, greeting someone with a kiss on the cheek is commonplace. For others, it may be misconstrued as offensive and an invasion of privacy or personal space. In addition, a firm handshake or direct eye contact in some cultures may show that you have confidence, but for other cultures, it may be disrespectful.
Nonverbal cues among different cultures can be complicated, so it’s best to do your research ahead of time before meeting with a business partner or client.
Something as small as addressing someone by name can vary across cultures. Some cultures prefer to use first names in the workplace, while others strictly use surnames only, and use the formal “Mr./Ms. Surname.” According to HULT International Business School, it’s best to err on the side of formality if you’re unsure of how to address someone.
In addition, the concept of time can vary across cultures. Some countries operate on punctuality, while others don’t see a specific time to meet a deadline or attend a meeting, and in fact, may arrive after the scheduled time and still consider themselves to be “on time.” This can often lead to misunderstandings, frustration, or negative cultural perceptions.
To accommodate for these differences in workplace etiquette, it’s best to research online ahead of time to avoid issues down the road.
In addition to researching workplace etiquette, it’s also a smart idea to research cultural customs as well. Studying the mannerisms, dress, and gestures of a culture can do wonders for your business venture because you can adapt your own words, body language and actions to better suit those of who you’re doing business with.
It’s important for businesses to remember that cultures think, speak, and act differently than their own. As a standard business practice, consistently research the cultures you’re doing business with improve your overall business outcomes.