Why society and culture matters in international business?

Every company wants to grow across the borders and enter the international market place. More companies have become accessible for international business during the present decade and it is time to think about the importance of culture in running a business successfully in a country other than your home country.

Society and culture

Multinational company is a common term these days. This shows businesses can benefit from increased knowledge base and new approaches to business problems. How culture is defined or described.

Is it considered as simply a set of accepted norms and procedures set by the society?  But in an international business set up what are the common and accepted norms? One has to understand how culture affects international business in three sectors. They are communication, organizational hierarchy and etiquette.

Communication

Ability to communicate is one of the essential qualities needed for the success of an entrepreneur. It becomes utmost important to see that the essence of your communication is not lost while being translated into a foreign language for circulating among foreign clients as well as employees. For this reason many multinational companies have made English as their de facto language.

In communications different countries have different styles and approaches. For example the Finns are more direct and brief in their communication while Indians are considered as more of indirect and nuanced approach. Handshake, direct eye contact,  kiss on cheek etc may be the forms of greeting in some countries while it could be offensive in some other countries where the culture is entirely different.

For communication between two countries of different cultures approaching cultural differences with sensitivity, curiosity and openness has often found to be helpful in creating and maintaining a rapport between the parties engaged in communication.

Etiquette

Workplace etiquette has been found to vary considerably from country to country depending upon their cultural heritage. Addressing has been found to be a big task when meeting colleagues or business partners from different countries. Whether they like to be addressed by surnames or first names vary from culture to culture.

In Asian countries like China, South Korea, Singapore etc the mode of address is “Mr/Ms.Surname”. While in America and Canada the use their first name in addressing. Another matter of importance in the manner of etiquettes is punctuality.  In America people arrive for meetings or other professional matters a few minutes earlier than the scheduled time of the incidence. But Italians, Indians,  Mexicans etc do not give importance for punctuality and they always come late.

Organizational hierarchy

The organizational set up and the attitude of employees towards management have subtle differences from country to country. In some countries officer at middle management level find it possible to express their opinion without any fear of punishment or displeasure of higher ups.

But in some countries there are middle level managers who are not bold enough to open their mouth fearing that it will lead to their sacking and or down gradation in position.   For example in Japan those in senior management positions are more respected and they do not like the higher authorities being questioned  by the next lower level officers even.

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