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CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
IN COMMUNICATION
E-MAILS AND PHONE CALLS
Example:
In order to improve communication and cooperation w...
FACILITATING MEETINGS
Example:
An international sales meeting at a big company has
become a nightmare. Participants come l...
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Berlitz Tip - Cultural Differences in Communication

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When it comes to negotiating, socializing or organizing meetings with different cultures, it's important to keep the differences of all participants in mind.

Read the latest Berlitz Tip to learn more: http://www.berlitz.com/berlitz-tips/Cultural-Differences-in-Communication/265/

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Berlitz Tip - Cultural Differences in Communication

  1. 1. CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN COMMUNICATION E-MAILS AND PHONE CALLS Example: In order to improve communication and cooperation within an international company, it was decided to have weekly telephone conferences with the colleagues from Brazil, USA, UK and China. Anyhow, the outcome was not as expected: The Brazilians didn't provide the information needed, the Brits made jokes, the Americans talked about anything else but business and the Chinese did not say anything. Good to know: →→ Brazilians might need some personal contact before acting. They would also like to know the benefits of providing information. →→ Small talk is very important for Americans to build relationships. →→ British jokes might be hidden messages. →→ Chinese colleagues might want to check with the group or boss before responding. Tips • Use e-mails for communicating information (not for sensitive issues) • Respect cultural differences when addressing people (e.g. first names in the US and use of titles in Austria) • Use the "Cc" with care when writing to someone from high power-distance cultures (e.g. China). • Follow your e-mails with telephone or face-to-face communication, especially when cooperating with cultures with high person orientation. • Telephone conferences should have a clear structure with time to speak for everyone • Make sure that everyone is still involved by asking for feedback from individuals. Keep in mind that some people may have to check with the group or boss before expressing their opinion. PRESENTATIONS Example: During an international conference people from different countries held presentations. The German colleagues thought the US presentation was lacking in detail. The Americans found the German presentation boring. A British speaker said that he doesn't know why he was invited though he was introduced as an expert in the field. Good to know: →→ US presenters like to focus on the "big picture" before going into detail, and appreciate interaction with the audience. →→ Detailed presentations from low-context cultures (e.g. Germany) might be boring for those people who would like to be convinced by the main point first. →→ The understatement of British people can be misunderstood by people from outside the UK. Tips • Presentation styles vary across cultures: consider the aspects of communication style (e.g. gestures and body language) • Person-oriented cultures will appreciate being involved in the presentation; include pictures of people (e.g. team members) even in technical presentations • Future or past oriented audience? For example, future oriented audiences (e.g. United States) want to hear about the potential benefits of a product while past- oriented audiences (e.g. India and China) seek to gain credibility by focusing on past achievements.
  2. 2. FACILITATING MEETINGS Example: An international sales meeting at a big company has become a nightmare. Participants come late and go early. There's not enough time for all the topics which leads to late evening presentations and frustration. Many colleagues don't concentrate on the presentations. Some colleagues complain about the food, some don't go to the meals at all. Tips • Clearly define the aims of a meeting and tell presenters what is expected from them. • Keep in mind that the meeting culture from the participants can be very different from yours: check what is expected. • Consider language requirements: lunch menu in English, interpreting and translation facilities, .... • Be aware of dietary requirements: Asian participants may like hot water, Americans may prefer ice. • Plan enough time for interaction and a social program around the meeting. NEGOTIATIONS Example: An American tries to negotiate with Chinese partners. He's been to China several times without clear results. Instead of talking about the contract, the Chinese partners invite him to meals and sightseeing trips. Good to know: →→ Chinese want to show their hospitality and get to know their business partners better; eating together is very important. →→ Chinese will first of all discuss everything with their colleagues to reach a consensus. →→ A contract is seen more as a statement of the interest in working together rather than a detailed plan: changes must be possible. Tips • Think about the best place to negotiate: in the office, restaurant or golf course? • Consider who should be involved in the negotiation: experts or the boss? • Consider where people will sit and what clothing is appropriate. • Who is making decisions: individual or group? • Do you need to build trust before starting to negotiate? • Make sure that you know what the contract really means. SOCIALIZING Example: An Austrian salesman is always unsure about socializing in many countries. His Russian business partners seem to want to get him drunk, and the American hospitality is too much for him. Good to know: →→ Highly person-oriented cultures find socializing very important, because getting to know another person is necessary to doing business together. →→ Toasting with vodka is common in Russia. →→ You'll be invited out in many countries by your business partners, e.g. to a karaoke bar in Japan, to the sauna in Finland or to the pub in Britain. Tips • In Russia, eat fatty food beforehand or refuse for health reasons (but don't have a beer at the bar later). • Take advantage of being invited out to get to know each other and build trust. • Americans do have a large public sphere, Germans a large private one: don't be confused by the use of the first name and an invitation to the barbecue in the US. • Make small talk and show real interest in your partners. MANAGING TEAMS Example: A German project manager has sent out a draft of an important presentation to his French and Indian colleagues, asking for their feedback and updates. No one responded. In a video conference, the colleagues simply agreed on supporting his proposal. Good to know: →→ The French felt that they have not been involved in the process. →→ The Indians didn't want to criticize their boss or give feedback in a video conference. Tips • Identify cultural differences. Find common ground and decide how you want to work together. • Spend time on face-to-face relationship building before switching to virtual communication. • Include all team members in decision making at all stages of the project. • Clarify roles and expectations. • Be aware of different communication styles, e.g. how they would like to give feedback, directness/ indirectness. In partnership with Business Spotlight (Spotlight Verlag GmbH)

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