Business Etiquette

Take account of cultural expectations

When you prepare to do business with people of another culture, you make assumptions about them, and their status, expertise, and behavior. You often assume that their way of working will be the same as yours. Often it is similar, but it’s worth preparing for differences. To set yourself up for success.
  • Consider the importance of status
  • Recognize the impact of time

Consider the importance of status

With Globalization, anyone sufficiently capable and diligent can hold any position. Thus, young people frequently hold senior positions in Multinational companies.
Some cultures respect age and seniority over ability. Companies in these cultures place older workers in positions of power and support them with experts, who are often younger and deferent to their senior. Having this senior person on the team signals to partners that the company takes this particular venture seriously. You can imagine then, how people of such a culture would view the organization that sends a team of young, relatively inexperienced people to do business with them, no matter how expert.

Recognize the impact of time

Differing attitudes toward time can be a major source of frustration when dealing with other cultures. The time is money cultures, which dominate the US and Europe, stress the here and now. They look for quick results and short-term gain. They value punctuality and deadlines.
People of cultures with a long-term view see time as a continuum. To them it’s more important to reach a natural conclusion to a meeting than to end it at a specific time and strict punctuality is simply not important. If you arrange a meeting with them, be patient, have something to occupy your waiting time and don’t be insulted if they show up late. Remember that your perspective on time is not necessarily the right one. There are advantages to both viewpoints.

Advantages to both viewpoints

The long-term approach can even be more profitable. See for yourself in this modern European example. The British railway system has segmented regionally and partially privatized. It has invested little and has few high-speed trains in operation.
The French railway system, SNCF, has been investing heavily for the last 15 years in high-speed trains, and has been making a loss. Its trains take far less time to travel from Paris to the Channel Tunnel than the British trains take to travel from London to the Tunnel, a much smaller distance. SNCF has high-speed links, either in planning or in operation, to all the major European cities. It has been prepared to accept short-term financial loss for the longer-term gain of positioning Paris as the hub of Europe.