If you operate a business that sells products or provides services in other parts of the world, you need to be aware of the local culture. Whether you are meeting with people in person, over the phone or in a Skype conference, you should know something about customs and what is allowed and prohibited in conversation so that you don’t inadvertently offend someone.
Know the Language
Even if the person you are speaking with understands and speaks English, there will be cultural differences. For instance, it may be offensive to use certain terms that are considered normal in North America. In some countries, it is not permitted to call someone by their given name. Instead, you refer
to them by their last name.
Using slang, being too casual or overly familiar with people is often considered unprofessional. However, in some cultures, it is a bigger offense. Make yourself aware of potential mistakes before you speak with people from another country or region.
To avoid being misunderstood, which can also lead to problems in business communication, you should work with a speech coach. They can help you learn to enunciate clearly so you’ll be easily understood.
Consider Body Language
Many gestures and moves that are normal in North America are considered rude in other countries. For instance, the thumbs up sign is not a positive gesture in South America, Greece and other places. In many East Asian countries, it is impolite to use your left hand for a handshake or to take a piece of food or other item.
These and many other seemingly innocent gestures can put you in a bad light with people from another culture. If you travel for your company, you will want to know about these potential offenses before they happen.
What to Do After the Fact
If you say or do something that causes people to look at you funny, and someone leans over and quietly explains what you did that was offensive, you should immediately apologize. You don’t have to go into great detail about your faux pas, but it’s always important to acknowledge your mistake.
Most people in the business world will know you made an honest mistake, but your apology will show them that you have respect for them and their culture. Of course, preventing the mistake in the first place is the best way to make a good impression, so take the time to study the cultures where you will be traveling.
Learn what are signs of respect as well as what you should not do. This will help you be memorable in a positive way. Remember, you are not only representing yourself in these travels but your company. You want to leave a positive impression about your business and how it can be expected to treat people who are different. Just by being aware of other cultures and learning how to communicate, you can help establish your company as a professional entity that they want to do business with.
Claudette Roche is a accent training in the Vero Beach, FL area. She teaches foreign and American accents to actors and business persons/executives. In 2010 she was named as one of The Top 5 Voice Coaches by Hollywood Weekly Magazine.