Cultural understanding is a key factor when you are travelling for business and are trying to make meetings go smoothly and productively. Building up a relationship of trust with your opposite numbers is vital. This can however be hampered by different expectations and a lack of cultural awareness.
Different cultures have different ways of running a meeting. For example meetings in Brazil may not have an agenda to work to, whereas in European countries, an agenda is expected and adhered to. In a country like China, meetings are for building up a relationship, with many of the big decisions made outside of the formal meeting room where there is no loss of face if things don’t go well.
Meetings in America can be expected to have conflict and confrontation, and decisions will generally be made quickly. Contrast that with meetings in Japan or Sweden, where more time is taken, consensus has to be reached and many meetings may need to be held to reach a decision.
Formal hierarchy can also be vitally important, with the order people walk into a room and where they sit being paramount in some cultures. Colleagues who normally have a cultural emphasis on family and community can feel disconcerted when confronted with others from a background which values independence and freedom.
There are also differences in the amount of emphasis placed on verbal or written communication, which should of course be accurately translated, with good grammar and punctuation. In France or Germany for example written materials are of great importance whereas in Brazil, what you say may carry more weight.
If you have important meetings to attend, it would be worth considering cultural awareness training or even using a go-between to smooth out any differences and cultural clashes.
A small amount of language training is always advisable – even just a few words can help break the ice and encourage trust.
Any documentation you wish to present should of course be translated – get in touch with MTT on 0844 856 1086 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance and advice on how to make the best impression.