Language and Culture

Firstly, may I start by saying I realise that I haven't been blogging enough, so here is my early new year’s resolution I will try to do more.

Language and culture


When presenting to people about International Trade I always stress the importance of language and culture, even making the effort to learn to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you can make all the difference.


Conducting business on a global basis requires a good understanding of different cultures.

What works in one country may not work as well in a different area of the world and could well even be interpreted as an insult. One of the roles of an export manager is to raise the awareness of cultural issues within your organization to ensure success.

We are living in a world where trade is becoming more global by the day. Fast communication between people and places has encouraged more businesses to look elsewhere however cultural differentiations are often forgotten or even ignored in planning. In International Trade a company needs to become progressively more aware of the foreign cultures when aiming for success in an international business environment.

Attitudes towards work and material possessions, entrepreneurship, willingness to accept risk, politics, religion, customs, and the role of the woman vary in different regions. How we react to and work with these differences are our challenges.

In North America, they think in terms of whatever it takes to close the deal fast. They tend to push, push and push.  There is a reliance on contracts and the legal system.  There are more lawyers in the USA, per capita, than anywhere else in the world.

In China personal dignity “(Manzi”-saving face) is important to the Chinese.  Be careful not to say or do anything that will result in one’s losing face.  The Chinese respect and will not challenge authority.  A yes answer can mean just that they know that you are speaking and nothing more.  It may not necessarily infer understanding; agreement or that action will take place. You may not hear them say “no.”

Indian society is influenced by the “caste system,” and individuals usually accept their relative position.  The upper caste expects to be catered to. It is expected that individuals arrive on time, however sometimes a double standard applies as your associates may arrive late. There is a strong family orientation so inquiring about family is important. Relationships (sometimes more than facts) and developing trust are important.  Do not rely on the contract alone. Head shaking from side to side indicates agreement and it is not a negative gesture.


I will return to this subject in future posts, however the moral of today's tale is don't assume that the way you do business is your home market will immediately work elsewhere take the time to get to know the country you want to sell in and it's people and give that due consideration when pitching. .

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