Business Culture Around The World

Do you think it’s important to understand different cultures if you are doing business? 

Knowing how to behave and not to behave in a business context in different countries and cultures can be extremely important. Ideas of good manners and politeness can differ from country to country and knowing how to handle yourself when dealing with international clients can go a long way towards ensuring business success and making sure you don’t unintentionally offend anyone!

Should you shake hands, bow when you first meet a client or business partner, make lots of eye contact, even smile? Should you bring a gift to a business meeting?  



In what countries do you think you might do each of the things below as part of a business negotiation?

  1. Bring a small gift from your own country to a meeting
  2. Sing solo karaoke after dinner
  3. Do business over vodka
  4. Go for a lengthy meal
  5. Have a pint together in the pub

Answers: 1. China 2. Japan 3. Russia 4. Italy 5. Ireland 

Now, test your knowledge of different business cultures around the world.



SITUATION A: Where, for example, do you think is it more important to apologise for not speaking the local language, in France or Ireland?

French people are very proud and protective of their language and sometimes resent people assuming they will speak English, particularly if the meeting is taking place in France. Even if you don’t speak French, it is appreciated to apologise for not speaking the language. In Ireland, most people us  English rather than Irish as their daily language so there is no need to apologise for speaking English. Only about 2-3% of the Irish population use Irish as their first language. Answer: France


SITUATION B: An Asian businessman on business in Ireland says, very positively, that his team have lots of good experience working with British companies. The Irish businessman nods his head but doesn’t smile.

  1. The deal doesn’t happen. Why not?
  2. Which communication style below do you think describes how the Irish businessman reacts?
    A. Good communication is sophisticated and subtle.
    B. Good communication is direct, clear and simple with repetition if necessary.

1. With a greater knowledge of Irish culture and identity, the Asian businessman might have understood that (due to a long history of Ireland fighting for independence from England) the Irish businessman would probably not take positively to being associated with a British company. In fact, the opposite would probably be true. The Irish businessman would likely respond very positively to any comment stressing the differences between an Irish and British company.

2. A. Good communication is sophisticated and subtle.
This is typical of the Irish communication style. Messages are often indirectly suggested. A German businessman once described his difficulties doing business in Ireland: ‘Where I come from, everyone is direct and says what they mean and so I find someone refusing to just say what is on their mind, even if it’s negative, frustrating. In Ireland, that’s the norm, you’re expected to figure out what everyone means based on small social cues that everyone else here learns from birth.’



Would any aspects of how Irish people do business be seen negatively in your country?

What advice would you give somebody coming to do business in your country? Could you make a list of ‘Dos and Don’ts’?

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