Cultural codes: how to behave abroad

I’ve been looking for a long time for a comprehensive book on cultural differences. I finally found it and I am sharing it with you today. Presented as a guide to doing business around the world, this book advises us on how to behave in more than 60 countries. I consult it regularly and it’s true that it makes it easier to connect with people from different cultures.

The plan used remains the same for each nation. We have access to a significant amount of quality information: a cultural overview, tips for doing business, what you need to know before you leave, negotiation strategies to adopt, protocol and local customs.

To present this excellent book, I have translated excerpts from different countries. Translated indeed, I forgot to tell you that the book is only available in English for the moment. Nothing too bad for those who want to travel the world ;).

What is your cultural IQ?

After a nice little quiz (with surprising questions for some countries), you have access to a great source of information: History, language, politics, demographics, cognitive style, value system, negotiation strategy, etc.

Business and good practices

Punctuality, appointments and local agenda

India: Indians appreciate punctuality but do not always practice it themselves. Plan a flexible schedule so that you can reschedule your appointments.

Japan: During three weeks of the year (New Year’s holidays from 28 December to 3 January, Golden Week from 29 April to 5 May and Obon in mid-August) many people visit the graves of their ancestors. Having business appointments and travelling during these times is difficult.

Negotiation

Germany: Being direct is appreciated. Germans may openly criticize your products or your company, don’t take it personally.

Russia: “Last offers” are never the last during the first negotiations. Be patient, a more attractive offer will be made if you can resist.

Outings and entertainment

Peru: Invite your partners to prestigious restaurants. Remember to include spouses in the invitation if it is a dinner party.

Kuwait: Remember that alcohol and pork are forbidden for orthodox Muslims and you should only eat with your right hand. Even if you are left-handed, eat with your right hand.

Protocol

Greetings

Israel: While different cultural groups greet each other in different ways, most Israelis who do business with foreigners shake hands during greetings. A common greeting is “Shalom” (peace) or the English word “Hello”.

Titles / Forms of address

Mexico: Securities are very important in Mexico. Address a person by using their title, such as “professor”. First names are reserved for people close to you. Let your partner initiate this passage to first names.

Gestures

South Korea: Physical contact is inappropriate with people who are older, of a different gender, or with whom you are not good friends or relatives.

Turkey: Shaking your head from left to right (the “No” in France) means “I don’t understand”.

Gifts

Venezuela: Bring high quality gifts that can be useful: for example a lighter with your company name, electronic gadgets, specialized books or an imported liquor such as a 12 year old whisky.

Clothing

Portugal: Conservative, formal clothing is essential. Portuguese men can even wear a tie to go to the movies.