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Intercultural communication and business strategy

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Intercultural communication and business strategy

Speaking English is a must if you are doing business on the international level. But that just might not be enough for developing your business strategy when moving your business to a new country. Learn below why.

Do we speak the same language?

It goes without saying that different countries have different cultural norms and different ways of interacting, but finding a foreign business partner that speaks the same language we do can trick us into thinking that we understand each other perfectly. In Europe, the foreign language spoken by most is English, and many speak it very well as a second language. But speaking the language might not be enough, as shown by the half-joking charts contrasting what a British person says and what they really mean. The fact that such charts make the rounds on social media every few months shows just how common the problem is: no matter how good your English is, it is hard to wrap your head around the fact that “not bad” means “very good”, while “quite good” really means “a bit disappointing”.

Negotiating strategies

When starting a new company in an unfamiliar country, turns of phrase and euphemisms are not the only things you have to worry about. When negotiating business terms, it is customary in some countries to wildly overstate your demands so that you can come to a compromise at the end of the meeting; in other cultures, your wildly exaggerated position will only be met with an extreme lack of understanding. Similarly, it is the norm in many countries to haggle over the price of items and services, while other places operate with fix prices and well-defined discounts.

Customer attitudes

Customer behavior and attitudes can also change from country to country. This means that even if you run a successful business in one culture and know your trade inside and out, you might have to employ a completely different business strategy when introducing your product somewhere new. Are the people in the new country particularly price-sensitive, or are they willing to shell out more money for better quality? Are they likely to grab onto a promotional offer or a discount? How will you convince them to buy your product: do they pay more attention to billboards or social media?

Overcoming these difficulties takes a bit of work, but it is by no means impossible: it requires a bit of empathy, a bit of flexibility and awareness of the differences. Knowing about the differences is the first step, and thorough market research can break down the exact patterns and outline the best strategies to deal with them.

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