The Importance of Identifying and Adapting to Cultural Differences

International trade is a large and important component in today’s business world. Understanding culture and cultural differences (or not) can hold the possibility of winning or losing the deal at the very first meeting. Your understanding of cultural differences can establish the basis for your reputation and the way your business is viewed by the rest of the world.

Often in today’s business environment, one must recognize that to be successful internationally it may require you to put aside your own sensitivities and do what is necessary to close the deal. Is it really worth losing a multi-million dollar contract to insist someone conform to our views of equality of gender? Quite possibly not.

However, there are cultural differences that warrant the collapse of a deal.

For instance, in some countries it is culturally acceptable to use child labor while in other countries bribing government officials is seen as part of the normal course of a tendering process.

Refusing to deal with these people will very likely lose you the deal in some situations; however, your stance on human rights and corruption will enhance your reputation with other countries and benefit you more in the long run (not to mention your conscience, doing the right thing, etc.).

Power distance, individualism, masculinity, femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and short-term / long-term orientation are some of the concepts to be considered very carefully. The bottom line is that in order to make the connection essential for ongoing business relationships you must understand the culture of the people you are dealing with. As is the case with many people and situations around the world, first impressions count and you don’t want to start by unknowingly showing disrespect to the people of the country you wish to deal with. As is the case with many people and situations around the world, first impressions count and you don’t want to start by unknowingly showing disrespect to the people of the country you wish to deal with.

While western culture still currently dominates the business world, the growing Asian markets are opening and expanding rapidly. Many norms of body language accepted in the West convey the exact opposite of meaning in the east. Direct eye contact in the West is generally associated with honesty, paying attention, and being respectful. However, in many Eastern countries it is disrespectful. Clothing, time of day, and multiple other factors can come into play, as well.

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Adam Saleh

Adam is a web developer and tech guru at Convergent1.

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