It’s important for every businessman to know how to integrate into another culture. Even if it seems difficult, understanding the values and beliefs of the local people or even another company from the same country gives you an advantage when traveling.
I’ve worked with over 100 nationalities and experienced many different types of companies. What helped me the most was learning about the local cultures.
In this article, you’ll learn how travel and integration work and how they can help you in your personal and professional life.
How Culture Impacts Business Decisions
When you travel to a foreign country or business, it’s important to understand the culture there. Culture affects business decisions, builds relationships, and can drive your business.
5 Main Advantages of Discovering a New Culture
Learning about another culture has many benefits, both in business and in life. Here are a few examples of how it’ll help you:
There are many reasons for business people to travel, such as attending a convention or trade show, meeting with potential suppliers or clients, or simply taking a vacation.
This isn’t always easy, but if you understand why people do things differently, you can more easily avoid offending or unintentionally hurting someone.
When you learn more about a foreign culture, you learn more about yourself.
Regardless of the main reason for your business trip, you’ll benefit from understanding cultural diversity, when you do business with people who have a different value system than you, you must respect those values and adapt to them in order to be successful.
Cultural intelligence (or cultural quotient – CQ) is the ability to understand and interact effectively with people from other cultures.
CQ enables intercultural communication with effective communication styles – including verbal communication, international business collaboration, and negotiation with global teams and individuals.
CQ makes sales and negotiations easier by building trust; you’ll find it easier to gain influence, listen, understand and communicate effectively. CQ will help you build collaborative relationships that are essential in today’s global economy.
3. Skills and Knowledge
There’s no doubt that traveling abroad is a great experience for anyone.
It allows you to see the world and gain new knowledge about other cultures, history, geography, languages, traditions, etc.
This is knowledge you’ll have for a lifetime.
You also learn to empathize with other people, which you can apply in your own culture, with your clients, your boss, your co-workers, etc.
4. Build Strong Relationships
When a business person meets with a business person from a different country or city, they want to make sure they understand each other’s culture. This helps them build stronger relationships with each other so they can grow their businesses together.
5. Networking Opportunities
Traveling to an unfamiliar place can be a great way to make new contacts, especially if you’re familiar with and interested in the local culture.
Networking opportunities are everywhere: hotels, airports, restaurants, etc.
And of course, the people you meet there, if they trust you, can introduce you to a larger network.
10 Tips on What You Can Learn About Another Culture
Being prepared for new situations is half the battle in getting along with people from other cultures. When you’re on business travel to a different country, it’s not just about international business, it’s also about understanding the culture of your host country.
The world economy is in constant flux and that affects the economic market as well. If you plan to work with another country, you must understand the economic conditions there and how they affect their markets.
If you don’t know anything about the economic conditions of a country you want to do business with, it can cause problems for your business. You won’t be able to make an accurate forecast for your business because you don’t know what’s going on in the country’s market.
2. History and Politics
In many countries of the world, there’s a strong sense of national pride.
Many people believe that their way of doing things is the right way, even if they’re willing to try something new. This can be frustrating for those trying to do business in another culture.
If you understand the history and politics of your host country, you can better understand objections or openness.
Some business people from formerly colonized countries may not trust you easily if you’re European or North American because you’ve your own history of colonizing countries like theirs.
It’s important to be respectful and not come across as pushy.
3. Cultural Geography
If you’re on a long business trip, you may take a day off and end up in another culture without realizing it.
Every country has its own culture and ethnicity. In China, for example, there’s not just one Chinese culture. There are 56 recognized ethnic groups, and each group has its own culture and cultural norm.
When you visit a different country where business is conducted through relationships rather than contracts, it’s especially important to respect the people and their customs. Learn as much as you can about the people of your host country so you can make them feel comfortable and respected.
5. Greeting and Attitude
First impressions are everything and your attitude is more important than ever when you go to a business meeting. You can’t know how best to behave if you don’t study the local culture, such as body language, when to be grateful, how to greet, etc.
Here are some examples of doing business in other countries:
Bowing – Bowing is an important part of Japanese business etiquette. Each bow has a different meaning:
- Eshaku (simple)
- Keiri (more formal and respectful)
- Saikeirei (the most respectful gesture)
South Korea, China, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have their own traditional greetings.
Find out about the country’s bowing culture. For example, if you meet a Chinese businessperson you may not have to bow as often or at all because for many, shaking hands has become common.
Handshake – in Europe, North America, Latin America, and most Western countries, the handshake is the most common form of greeting, with a businessman shaking hands in France, while women exchange a kiss on the cheek. This is also true between a man and a woman (as long as a woman is involved in the greeting). The number of kisses depends on where you’re in France: In some places, it’s two kisses, in others, it’s four.
Take off your shoes – in most Asian countries, it’s also business etiquette to take off your shoes when you enter someone else’s house or Asian temples. You must take them off every time before you enter a room and before you sit on the furniture. Don’t sit on a cushion without first asking if the person who owns the house is okay with it. Even if they say you can do it, remember that it’s rude for someone else to enter the room while you’re sitting on their furniture without shoes!
Food – in some countries it’s best to finish your plate, in others it’s not. I personally avoid this because people are becoming more environmentally conscious and it’s important not to waste food. However, in some remote areas (which is unlikely at a business meeting) it’s best to observe how the local culture handles food.
6. Dress Code
There are a number of reasons why it’s important to know your dress code.
There’s nothing worse than having people at a business meeting focus on what you’re wearing instead of what you’ve to say.
Wearing appropriate clothing that’s acceptable in the culture of the country you’re visiting shows that you respect the customs and values there. It also allows you to mingle with the local population, which provides you with valuable networking opportunities.
You’ll feel more comfortable in your surroundings if you dress appropriately, which can help you see more clearly what’s going on around you.
Many business meetings are about food. Knowing the food locally will make your business meetings more enjoyable so you don’t try anything your body can’t handle, and you can also order faster if your meeting is at a restaurant.
If you’re vegan and are invited to a restaurant that doesn’t offer vegan food, instead of asking the organizer to change the reservation, you could ask if the restaurant can offer a vegan option.
If you have an allergy to nuts or a specific ingredient, it’s best to clarify it with the organizer. Be aware that some countries may consider it a religion and may not understand the potential consequences. You don’t have to be bossy, but make sure the organizer understood your request. For example, you can say that the last time you ate nuts you ended up in the hospital, rather than saying that if you eat nuts you’ll end up in the hospital. In some cultures, a story is respected rather than feeling like you’re putting something on them.
The best thing to do is Google it and ask if anyone in your target country has had similar experiences.
8. Intercultural Communication
Language – If English isn’t widely spoken in the country you’re visiting, local people will appreciate it if you learn a few basic phrases. This is even more true if your job involves working directly with locals or giving presentations at meetings. If learning languages isn’t your strong suit, you can hire a professional translator or take lessons before your business travel.
Cultural taboos – These can range from different ideas about food, religion, politics, and sexual orientation.
Business meetings abroad should be a pleasant experience for all involved. However, to avoid potential problems, it’s important to be aware of local cultural taboos. To do everything right and avoid potential mishaps, it’s best to be well informed beforehand.
9. Business Culture
For some businesses, this doesn’t matter, but for those operating in international markets, cultural differences must be considered. If you do your research, you’ll often find that there’s a strong connection between local culture and business culture.
10. Social Status
this varies greatly from country to country: in some countries, there’s a strong hierarchy, in others, there’s a great deal of equality.
In the United States, for example, most companies are less hierarchical than in Asian countries or the Middle East.