If you do business abroad, you want to achieve something with your client or other business partners. And for this you need their understanding and goodwill first. This is where cultural sensitivity comes in.
Why understanding cultural norms is important
- Communication is a “two-way issue”. It starts with empathy, understanding the counterpart. When you understand the other side, you know what you have to say, and what you shouldn’t.
- You might wish the counterpart to understand your culture. However, it’s easier to learn another culture yourself than to teach your own culture to others. Even if you’d like to teach your culture, you can only teach it well if you know where the differences are.
How cultural sensitivity helps to generate business
- By understanding the potential customers, you will be able to sell your products and services.
- By understanding your customers, you will be able to make yourself (your company / products / services) most popular. This will help you to build a lasting relationship with them.
- By understanding your suppliers (or any other business partners), you will have the opportunity to reach good deals and to build a long term relationship.
What are setbacks due to insensitive approach towards culture?
- You may get angry, while your business partners think they do a good thing.
- Your business partners may get angry, while you think you do a good thing.
- Not understanding your business partners actually mistreats you, even according to their own culture’s standards.
- In case of a problematic situation, the only solution you and your business partner can reach is cancelling the cooperation. However, with mutual empathy the solution might be very easy.
Relevance of understanding local & global traditions, customs and forms
First know that:
- Powerful groups impose rules on the weaker
- In each situation another group may have the power to impose the norms
- Even “global standards” (like the Human Rights) may differ per country, since priorities on contradictions are differently
That implies that:
- The most peaceful solution is just following the actual rules / traditions / customs.
- If you don’t follow the actual rules (for that country/situation), you actually start a new “power game”. Be aware of the implications of such a conflict.
- Even if you actually are the strongest, a conflict might not be in your interest.