The word culture brings to mind a multitude of thoughts. Culture usually encompasses those obvious concepts that set communities apart from one another. These are measures of identification and include elements such as their values, their communication style, dressing sense, language, food habits and more.
A business in itself is a culture. For example, the Banking and Insurance sector would have clearly defined organizational structures, formal attire and a formal method of communication as opposed to the Advertising Industry with its casual dress attire and long working hours.
In a world that no longer looks at the business community as region specific, it is now time to bring together business and various cultures and look at them together as a Global business culture.
Australia is a country that is home to many communities. People from the U.A.E., China, France, Japan, Germany etc. have all found a base here and operate their local businesses from Australia. While majority of them have adopted the business practices of Australia, their business practices could still have an influence from their cultures back home.
Each culture must be looked upon independently as they are vastly different from one another. We’ve taken various communities and broken down their business etiquettes.
The Middle East
When interacting with a business group from the Middle East, it wouldn’t hurt to earn a few brownie points and be culturally well informed.
To begin with, to show you are respectful; greet the senior most person in the room first. The culture from the Middle East believes in familiarity and relationship building. It is important to establish a relationship before getting into business, deviating from the formal styles of the western world. Ask about their family members, their health and exchange other such pleasantries in order to establish a comfort zone for you and your Arabic business partners.
When visiting the client or when the client you are interacting with is visiting you, hospitality is expected. It is a part of their culture to make sure you are well fed and watered. Refusal to accept is considered impolite. Complimenting the host is all a part of the cultural protocol.
To be successful, you must look successful. This is the motto of the Chinese business community. Elaborate dressing attire with flashy chunky accessories at the work place is frowned upon by this community.
While exchanging business cards, receive a card with both your hands while bowing slightly. Irrespective of the language on the card take time to have a good look at it and acknowledging the person that gave it to you before putting it away.
The Chinese prefer a straightforward, simple conversation. They do not appreciate loud gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. Understand that haggling is a business practice that you are expected to participate in. Stay smart with your negotiation.
As compared to the Chinese, the Russians love being at the top of their game as far as dressing is concerned. The men are expected in a suit and tie while the women are expected to wear shirts and skirts.
If you are invited to a Russian colleague’s home, do not decline the invitation. Visit the colleagues house with little gifts as a token of appreciation towards the family’s hospitality.
Another factor that sets Russians apart from the Chinese is the need to express themselves. Negotiations see a lot of emotion and if things aren’t going their way they may get upset.
Russians love to drink, do raise a toast to your host when you are drinking together! Russians believe alcohol to be the mark of creating a lasting relationship.
India is known for its diversity. There are cultural pockets across the country, the business practice of which vary from community to community. However, the overall business etiquettes do overlap within these communities.
Within the Indian business community, it is all about building long-lasting relationships. The transition of friendship into business is usually the easiest as there is an involvement of trust and credibility. It is best to initiate business through a third party that knows the business group you are approaching.
Indian’s do not believe in the concept of ‘no’. You will hear a lot of ‘maybe’ and there is a possibility of there being a lot of back and forth before you settle at a decision.
The Indian Business community is all about data, facts and numbers. Be sure to have done all your research and have material sent across to them before your meeting so that everybody is on the same page during the discussion.
While business practices may differ across communities, everybody practices fair and moral business etiquette. It is always good to research into a community, or get an agency that specializes in tailored research and communication to know exactly what you are getting into.
The communities that reside within Australia are used to dealing with people from outside their community and will not hold any errors in communication against you. Expand your boundaries, tap a new market and enjoy a long and fruitful business partnership while celebrating cohesiveness which is what Australia is all about.