When it comes to international business trips, the ultimate goal is to "seal the deal." Or is it? Depending on the type of culture with which you are entering into negotiations, that may not be the thought in the forefront of their minds. Save yourself some frustration and follow these do's and don'ts of international business.
Do Learn About Hot Climate vs. Cold Climate Culture
Learning the typical cultural characteristics hot climate cultures vs. cold climate cultures will help you learn the basics of the culture you are going to interact with on your international business trip. By learning about the differences between these cultures, you will be able to determine if the people you will be interacting with will be individualistic or group-oriented in their approach. Will they be more about inclusion or privacy? Will they be task-oriented or focused on building relationships? To learn more about hot climate culture and cold climate culture, check out this article.
Don't Assume Everyone Speaks Fluent English
Although English is the lingua franca in many countries, most countries have a different mother tongue. And though your potential international business partners may have taken English in school, if you ever took a foreign language in school, you know how that goes. So, developing fluent English will only have come with significant effort on their part. Plan on having an interpreter and make sure you know the etiquette of using an interpreter. If you really want to impress your international business partners, you should do some language training to show them that you have taken the effort to learn some of their language. This will earn you major points in the relationship building department.
Do Learn Greeting Customs
Whether you decide to do language training or not, do at least learn the basic greeting phrases and gestures. Doing so will keep you from inadvertently offending your potential partners from the very onset of the business relationship. Learn whether the culture expects you to greet each person as you enter the room or if a general greeting is fine. Should you only shake the boss' hand or each and every person. Should you avoid greeting those of the opposite gender? Do you shake hands? Which hand should you use? Do you bow? Greet with a kiss? Thoroughly researching a culture's greeting customs will hopefully help you avoid embarrassment and committing cultural faux pas. It may be best to consult with professionals in this aspect and even sign up for an intercultural training to be very prepared for the cultural differences you will encounter on your trip.
When it Comes to Food Don't Say No... Or Do
The biggest cultural faux pas can occur when it comes to food. In most countries, it is extremely offensive not to at least try the food offered to you, no matter how unappetizing it may look to your American eyes. You have no idea what sort of effort has gone into making the dish staring at you from the plate. Do your best to at least try it and pretend you like it. When it comes to first trying a food, never say no. When it comes to being done eating, that is where it becomes a little trickier. While in the United States, it is perfectly fine to simply say you do not want any more food, people in other cultures may avoid saying no at all costs. That does not mean that they do not want to say no, but they say it in such a round-about way that it does not sound like a no. Americans employ this tactic, but it usually implies a yes. For example, saying "I wouldn't want you to go through the trouble of bringing me another piece of pie" would be interpreted as "I really don't want to directly ask you for another piece of pie, but I really would like another." In some cultures, you must refuse two times before saying yes on the third. In others, no matter how many times you say no, you will get more food on your plate. Do your research to find out which type of cultural yes or no you should employ.
Do Research Cultural Clothing Guidelines
As old-fashioned as it sounds, it is best to know what the local clothing guidelines are for both men and women. As countercultural as that is to Americans, ignoring them could be fatal to negotiations. If it makes you feel better, you can call it a dress code. Following the local dress code is another way to avoid offending your future business partners. It will eliminate the possible distractions and discomfort that incorrect clothing can cause. For the sake of the success of your business trip, do your research about what to wear and when to wear it. Don't let the American freedom mindset keep you from "sealing the deal."