How to Deal with Culture Shock When Doing Business Internationally

When moving to a new country for business, there’s a lot to learn and absorb. But, more importantly, you should make sure you acclimate to the culture and know the language. Here are a few ways to help you prevent culture shock when your business goes overseas.

Clothing: Do your research beforehand on what’s appropriate to wear for business attire as well as for eating dinner with clients in the evenings. It’s important to dress professionally so as to make a positive first impression. It’s best to dress conservatively in all instances. Even if you wear business casual to the office here in the States, this may not be acceptable in the country in which you’re visiting. In Dubai, for example, business women must wear clothing that covers shoulders, arms and knees.

Conversation: While you don’t necessarily have to be fluent in the language, especially when you’re just starting out, it helps to know a few common phrases to be polite. Study these important key words and phrases for your destination country and practice speaking them. Also, know the nuances of what’s appropriate conversation. Here in America, it may be common place to ask a client a general question about their personal life, but in the U.K., it’s considered rude to pry. If you feel you must break the ice, keep the topic of conversation limited to the weather, food and current events – NOT politics or religion.

Gifts: In many countries, it’s customary to give gifts to clients. In Japan, small tokens of appreciation are expected; however, in China, they could be misconstrued as a bribe If you do give gifts, make sure they’re small and inexpensive so as not to intimidate the other party. You don’t want them to feel as though they have to reciprocate.

Greetings: Just like learning keywords and phrases, you should also know the customary greetings inside and out. If the country you’re doing business in typically greets with a bow, you don’t want to be caught with your hand extended. This can lead to embarrassment at the least and loss of a deal at the worst. Know how you should address someone, whether by their title first and then name, or just first name, or Mr./Ms. before the last name. Bring business cards so you can hand them out to recipients.

Negotiations: Take it slow when it comes to negotiations. Not everyone likes to conduct business in a fast past manner, like in the U.S. The UAE, China, and UK all prefer to gain respect and trust first, then talk business. Give your clients time to make a decision and don’t rush them through it.

Punctuality: Be on time or a few minutes early. You can’t go wrong with this strategy no matter where you’re visiting. It’s much better to sit and relax with a coffee than rush to a meeting and be late.

To help you communicate better with clients overseas and avoid the culture shock that comes with international business, let BRIC Language Systems help.