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Culturalcomplexity:theetiquetteofdoing
businessabroad

Overseasclientscouldbeasunpreparedforyourwayofdoingbusinessasyou
arefortheirs.Makesureyoudoyourhomework

1. ItsmidafternoonindowntownUlaanbaatar,
Mongolia
.Fiveorsixguestsaresataroundarestaurant
tablewaitingtosharefermentedmaresmilkwithyou
tocelebratetheclosingofanimportantbusinessdeal.
Itsascenarioripewithpossibilitiesforcultural

cockups
andetiquette
fauxpas
,whichentrepreneurWillTindallrecalls
onlytoowell.

2. Refusingtodownyourfairshareofthe
toecurling
concoction,famedfor
beingthetippleofchoiceofGenghisKhanandhistroops,willnotonlybe
sociallyembarrassing,itcouldcostyouthedealyouvebeenworkingfor
monthstobroker.

3. Ifyouweretonotdrinkitorhaveanysortofreactiontothatinitialtaste,
itwoulddefinitelyloweryourstandingwithinameeting,saysTindall,
cofounderofEmergingCrowd.Andyoureverymuchexpectedtohavea
shoteachtimesomeonehasspoken.

4. Ofcourse,itsveryhardtokeepyourheadafter15shotsof
fiery
alcohol,
andTindallsaysevenafterlivinganddoingbusinessinthecountryformore
thanayearheleftthemeetingwithoutacluewhathadbeensaidorwhat
hadactuallyhappened.Any
SME
ownerseriousaboutexportingoverseas,
however,shouldbepreparedforacultureclashortwo,particularlyin
emergingmarkets
unfamiliarwithwesterncustoms.

5. Tindallsayshehasaweightyportfolioofembarrassing
blunders
made
duringhislastsixyearslivingandworkinginAsia.Butdespitebecoming

fairlyaccustomedtothe
rituals
ofbusinessmeetingsinHongKongand
Singapore,hesaysnothingcouldpreparehimforTokyo.

6. TindallremembershisfirstmeetingintheJapanesecapital10yearsago,
withaveryseniorandwellknownindividualinaninternationalbank.He
wastoldtogivealittle
bow
upontakingthemansbusinesscardandit
seemedallwasgoingwell.Thatwasuntilhebegantomakenotesabout
whothepersonwasonthecard.

7. AtthatpointIsawthisguysfacechangetoaverystrangeshadeofred.
Myactionswentdownincrediblybadly.AlthoughIwasgivingthisbusiness
cardlotsofrespect,theideaofwritingonitwasdefinitelyfrownedupon.
WhenIwenttoleaveandtrytoshakehishand,heturnedhisbackonme.
ItwasembarrassingbutthenIquicklyrealisedthatwasalsobecausethey
dontreallyshakehands.

8. Itmayhavebeenawkward,butittaughthimavaluablelessonabout
Japansreverenceforthemightybusinesscard.Theyareincredibly
importantinJapan,Tindallsays.Ifyouaredoingbusinessthereandhavea
cardwhichisalsotranslatedontheotherside,youwillreceiveimmediate
kudos
fromtherecipient.Theylovetheextraeffortthatyougoto,headds,
butwarnstomakesureyouknowwhichwayuptheJapaneselanguageside
isfacing.Handingsomeoneanupsidedowncardisalsoconsideredrude.

9. Thankfully,mosthostswillbesympathetictoyourculturalignorance,
providingyoumaketheeffort.Havingtheabilitytolaughatyourselfifyou
makeamistakeandapologisingis
key
torecoveringfromaparticularly
awkward
blunder,hesays.

10.ForLouisBarnett,thefounderofLouisBarnettChocolates,thebiggest
hurdle
wasunderstandingthatinsomecountriesdoingbusinessisasmuch
apersonaleventasitisprofessional.

11.The22yearoldentrepreneur,whostartedhisBritishchocolatecompany
atthetenderageof12,wasinitially
flummoxed
bythereactiontohis
typically
hardnosed
businesstalk.Afterexpressinghisprofessionalconcern
aboutamatterandstickingtothecoldhardfactsinameetingwithhis
partnersinMexico,hewassurprisedthatthereactionwasoneofoffence.
By
neglecting
toasktheclientabouthispersonallifehiswifeandkids
hehad
inadvertently
antagonised
hishosts.

12.Becauseoverseasclientswillbeasunpreparedforyourwayofdoing
businessasyouarefortheirs,itiscrucialyoudoyourhomeworkfirstand
getonestepaheadbeforemeetinginperson.Barnettfoundhelpand
supportfromtheBritishChambersofCommerce,whohaveexperts
onthe
ground
withanunderstandingofthecultureofthatnationandthewaysUK

exportersmayhavetoadapttodoingbusinessthere.Thechambers,he
explains,hasawidereachingspiderwebofnetworksandcontacts,from
buyersanddistributorstolawyers,whowillhelpyouunderstandthe
countrysmarket.

13.BulldogSkincareisalreadyareputablebrandofmalegroomingproductsin
theUK,butitisfastbecomingequallywellknownabroad,witharound
14,000retailersstockingtheproductrangeacross13countries.Itsfounder,
SimonDuffy,firstdippedhistoeintheoverseasmarketin2010witha
lucrativedealinSweden.AfterthecompanyssuccessinScandinavia,
Bulldoghadtheconfidencetothrowitsnetwider,branchingouttoasfar
astheUSandAustralia.

14.Oneoftheirmostinterestingexportingexperienceswasbreakingintothe
SouthKorean
market.He
hesitates
tocallitachallengethough,despitethe
vastculturaldifferences.Heclaimswith
thorough
researchand
preparation,anyexportingventureistotallymanageableyoujusthaveto
besensitivetothedifferences.

15.Duffyrecommendsediplomat.com,whichfeaturesahelpfulsectionabout
culturalconventions,suchashowtomeetandgreetpeople,aswellas
informationaboutnames,titles,andevenacceptablebodylanguagesuch
crossingyourlegs,eyecontactandshowingthesolesofyourfeet.

16.Certainconventionswhichareencouragedinthewestcancomeacrossas
confrontationalinKorea,Duffyexplains.Oneofthethingswetriedto
avoidwasphrasingquestionsthatrequiredayesornoanswer,asKoreans
trytoavoidthe
latter
.Thenegotiationprocesshasacompletelydifferent
rhythm.Thingstakelongertoberesolvedbutthatisntasignofalackof
momentumyouhavetobepreparedforseveralvisitstobuildtrust.

17.Oncethat
rapport
isbuilt,however,thencollaborationwillbecomeeasier.
Duffyaddsthatbecausetheyaremakingthebesteffortstodotheright
thing,theirpartnersarealso
cuttingthemalotofslack.

18.Theyaremeetingusinthemiddlenowwhichisimportantandwevalue
that,hesays.Weareveryconsciousthatwedontwanttooffendthe
localsensibilities
butweareawarethattheyarereachingouttousand
finding
commonground
.

http://www.theguardian.com/smallbusinessnetwork/2014/oct/27/culturaletiq
uettedoingbusinessabroad

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