The Need For Business Language Training?
Every culture has its own traditions, conventions and etiquette. To avoid causing offense when visiting new countries, it’s always advisable to establish what these are and do your utmost to avoid any embarrassing faux pas’. After all, what might be completely normal in Britain could be seen as disrespectful in South East Asia. Assuming that symbols, words and actions are universal can be very costly indeed – particularly for businesses.
The first, and possibly most obvious cultural divide, is often the language barrier. Even before you have the chance to break any social conventions, being unable to speak the native tongue could prove difficult enough to manage. This can easily be perceived as ignorance, laziness or even arrogance, particularly if you make no effort to utter or learn a few choices words and phrases. A little language training can go a long way in eliminating any such issues.
Understanding Business Etiquette
Within business circles, it’s important to understand the standard conventions, such as greetings and acceptable gestures. For instance, while many use a handshake to affirm a respectful greeting, other cultures employ a courteous bow. It may not be seen as rude to offer your hand rather than bowing, but if you’re really looking to make a good first impression then having an appreciation for local customs can be hugely advantageous.
As mentioned, that initial impression can be critical, particularly if you’re meeting new clients, customers or suppliers in another part of the world. Get this wrong and you could be playing catch-up straight off the bat. So if you are heading in to new territories for the first time, you might be advised to combine a little language training with cross-cultural training.
With the globalisation of modern business, cross-cultural education can provide the insight you need to communicate effectively and without any potential upsets along the way. This can have long-term benefits of course, particularly if you’re going to be setting up a new office in the region or have sealed an ongoing distribution contract. The training you receive now can be passed down throughout your company and become a part of future internal education and guidelines.
Crossing Cultural Divides
Of course these cultural differences can be subtle or they can be marked; equally, they can differ from country to country, this is why you should never assume that Japan has the same customs as China for instance. So wherever you’re expanding to in the world, be it Europe, Africa, Asia or the Americas, in a neighbouring country or a nation thousands of miles away, taking the time to learn the culture and appreciate its various nuances can really pay dividends.
Even within our own country and culture mistakes are possible, so most people will be forgiving of a verbal faux pas or a slightly clumsy greeting. The important thing is that you show that you understand the customs and abide by them. Understanding what can cause most offence or even infringe on local law can save you from the worst kind of ignominy, so you’d be wise to take advantage of any training or personal learning before embarking on any business venture in a new country.
It’s not rocket science of course and many companies already take advantage of training schemes to help employees steer clear of trouble on foreign shores. While common sense is probably your best tool, a little local knowledge and a grasp of their language can be invaluable.