1 Going global: How to succeed in International Business! (29 pages)

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Going Global: How to succeed in international business! 5

When it is assumed that everything is just like home because

the partner in Shanghai has seen the same movies, prefers the
same designer brands and possesses the same iPhone, there is a
great risk of falling into the so-called

similarity trap

2

. This is fur-

ther exaggerated when we are under pressure to succeed in a
foreign environment.

It wouldn’t be fair to say that upper level

management is completely indifferent to the cultural differences
around the world. However, these differences are often reduced
to nothing more than habits and customs. In Japan, you present
business cards with both hands and receive them with both hands.
You smile away differences of opinion and you need to tag along
and sing your heart out at karaoke bars. In the U.S., you are al-
most immediately on a first-name basis with project partners, with
whom you may feel quite chummy, however the boss is still the
boss. You negotiate directly, and during business lunches, you
combine pleasure with business related issues.

It is not difficult to find relevant information on international

business etiquette. There are guidebooks and manuals and top-
10-etiquette tips for almost any region where you would want to do
business. Often the preparation for an international assignment is
limited to skimming through a guidebook during the flight to the
final destination. The goal here is not to undermine the quality of
these books; on the contrary, it is highly recommended that, in
order to make a good first impression, you inform yourself about
cultural and behavioral norms in the new environment. However,
basic knowledge about cultural customs and courtesies, and hav-
ing the right business card, does not really help in conflict situa-
tions that arise due to Japanese principles of seniority or Ameri-

2

This term was originated by Hanne Seelmann-Holzmann; cf., Cultural Intelli-

gence. Die Erfolgsformel für Wachstum in einer multipolaren Wirtschaft Welt.
Wiesbaden 2010.

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