How to Overcome Cultural Issues When Building Your International Business

When you are coming to a new country, for work or vacation, you will for sure find things that will cause you to react. I am no exception, I still recall when I first came to Bangkok and witnessed the business women heading for their offices sitting on the backseat on two-wheeled motorcycles.

For an overprotected Swede it was so different to see and initially I considered it as totally mad.

But then I started to ask myself two questions every time I faced similar situations. These questions have helped me accept and enjoy the international environment and today things have to be completely dangerous before I react. These two questions are:

Is my home country (in my case Sweden) so perfect about everything?

As long as it works, and apparently it does, isn’t it OK then?

Beside these questions I have also the consciousness that in a new country I am always guest and regardless from my level of tolerance, I should not expect to understand exactly everything.

Another useful knowledge is that you have to say things in different ways to different nationalities. What means one thing for one nationality can mean something completely different to someone else. “Put on the life-jackets and jump into the water,” said the captain of a ship that was about to sink and no passenger obeyed his order. The passengers where namely international businessmen and for them the order meant something else. Slightly frustrated the captain returned to the bridge and explained the dilemma for the crewmembers. “Captain, I will take care of it,” said one of the officers and left. Some minutes later he returned to the bridge and reported to the captain that all the passengers had now put on the life-jackets and jumped into the water.
“Well done,” said the captain. “But what did you say to them?”

“To the German I said that “it’s an order, to put on the life-jacket and jump into the water.”
“To the Englishman I said “it’s a sport,” to the Frenchman I said “it’s a fashion,” to the Russian I said “it’s revolutionary,”and to the Italian I said “it’s forbidden.”
“Ok,” said the captain. “But what did you say to the American?”
“You are fully insured.”

With this article I have given you some ideas how to deal with international business. As a member of an international business community, I have seen many evidences that these ideas works. Similar to the passengers on the ship, we use the same tools and achieve similar goals while we say things in different ways. And the most important difference is that our “ship” doesn’t sink. It’s is sailing safely and successfully over the ocean of success.

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