It’s 5:45 in the morning and you just made it through airport security. You find your gate, park your luggage next to your chair, and open your news app as you wait for your flight to begin boarding. As you skim the news, you see story after story of misunderstandings that caused failed deals. You are a bit nervous for the global experience ahead, but you feel well-prepared from your company’s pre-departure training.
Doing business with another culture is more than exchanging emails and making all of your connecting flights. Businesses are made of people, and people are incredibly complex. In this competitive, globalized world, you want to have a truly successful team, it is critical to know the other culture on a deep level.
The social climate varies greatly from culture to culture. There can even be large cultural differences and expectations among citizens in the same country. The social climate is influenced by institutions such as politics, religion, history, education, and values. If you are familiar with the local expectations when traveling or relocating, it will help you adjust more quickly to the culture so you can be a productive employee and make the most out of being immersed in another culture.
The most straightforward method of intercultural communication is language. Being fluent in the language in which you are doing business is certainly ideal, but this is not always possible at companies with a presence in multiple countries. So, what else can you learn to help you communicate with your global team? Knowing a few basic phrases will demonstrate your genuine interest in the other culture. Also, it is helpful to have a knowledge of other languages you may hear, how information is communicated, and what nonverbal cues are most common.
Business at the global level undoubtedly has an increased risk level. Preparing your global team to anticipate where potential challenges may arrive is a smart step for managers. Without this preparation, your team may be perceived negatively by the other culture. Be sure your team knows how to greet their international coworkers, present information and negotiate, delegate tasks, and build a relationship of trust.
Will you stay in an apartment, a townhome, a family home, corporate housing…? The answer to this question differs from city to city and depends on the length of your assignment. A local consultant will be an invaluable resource when deciding what type of accommodations you need and identifying the best neighborhood for your lifestyle.
Well-traveled people almost always have an exciting answer when asked, “What is the best meal you’ve ever had?” Whether it’s over cocktails at a business dinner, sharing a quick bite from street vendor, or deciding what pastry to buy in the bakery, locals will be happy to share their own food experiences with an adventurous and curious coworker. Exploring a culture through its food is one of the most insightful ways to learn about a new place!
If you are relocating with your family, it is important to understand the structure of the local education system. Even if you are not moving with children or if you are a business traveler, learning about schooling will provide you with even more background information to help understand the lives of your coworkers.
Do your coworkers walk, drive, or take public transportation to work? Are there any surprising laws that you need to know before getting off the airplane? Breaking the law in another country is a serious problem for any foreigner, and simply not knowing the law is never an excuse. Many accidents for travelers involve transportation, so be sure to buy the proper ticket for public transit and obey all traffic rules and signs as a driver, cyclist, or pedestrian.
Attractions: Museums and Nature
All work and no play? No thank you! If you have time, make the effort to explore some of the top attractions in your destination. A weekend excursion makes for great conversation on Monday morning and displays your commitment to the cross-cultural partnership. Ask your coworkers for recommendations to uncover less obvious spots around the country as you try to venture to a mix of museums, monuments, and natural features.
There are a few best-practices regarding personal safety that apply wherever you travel. These include habits like sending you itinerary to a trusted person, knowing the location of your home country’s embassy, and having all of the proper documentation in a safe place (passport, proof of insurance, etc.). However, there are specific security concerns that may only apply in some countries or regions in your travels. Many security issues are preventable with proper duty of care precautions in place.
Facts about the Country
From culture to culture, certain aspects of daily life may seem obvious to one group of people, but extremely unusual to other groups. Facts about a region may surprise you, while locals don’t think twice about it.
Intercultural training for your team is the absolute best thing you can do to ensure success in global assignments. This comprehensive training is tailored to fit the needs of your team so as to best prepare them to perform successfully across cultures.
Read a few Destination Profiles below!