4.4 Doing business in different cultures
So far, the issues that have been discussed in this course have focused primarily on the use of different languages in a business context. However, doing business in international settings is not only about linguistic differences and closing language gaps: cultural differences, something already alluded to by some of the staff at Guidance, can raise just as many issues and are often more difficult to identify and understand.
Watch this video, which is an extract from the one you saw in Activity 29, and features four Guidance staff talking about the differences in cultural expectations and behaviour between the UK and other countries they have worked in. Then answer the questions below.
Transcript: Cultural expectations
List the examples of countries and behaviours that they mention, dividing their observations into the following areas.
1. Attitudes to time:
- In Poland, the working day starts and finishes earlier.
- People have longer working hours in China, and may hold business meetings over lunch or dinner.
2. Attitudes to hierarchy:
Poland, Pakistan and Italy are more formal than the UK. More formal forms of address for colleagues and bosses are used in all three countries.
3. Attitudes to turn-taking at meetings:
In Italy it is more acceptable to interrupt each other than in the UK.
4. Attitudes to mixing business and personal life:
In China it is more common to discuss business outside working hours and to have business meetings over dinner or lunch.
The Guidance employees’ responses show that attitudes and behaviour in different cultures are not always straightforward or predictable. For example, although Italian workplaces are more formal than in the UK in some ways, people are more likely to interrupt each other in meetings.
Remember that supposed characteristics of national behaviour are not absolute and that generalisations of this sort are always potentially risky.