With the advancement in telecommunications and related technology, the World is a smaller place these days. We need to get comfortable to work with people who do not Wear what you wear, Eat what you eat and Talk in a language that you speak. The more at ease that we are in interacting with different people the higher is our success quotient.
This needs us to look at the world around us as a Global village. Yes, it is true that we need to maintain our identity but we also need to understand the cultural differences around us when we interact with people from different cultural backgrounds.
For example, Americans are very individualistic in their outset and do not like someone getting too personal when interacting with them. Take this scenario, you travel to the US and are being familiarized with the work culture there. There is a client get-together arranged so that you can be familiarized with your team and interact with them at ease. One of your clients (Ms. XYZ) reveals that she is turning a grandmother in a week’s time and she would be taking off for couple of days to enjoy the important event. Imagine you being the team lead ask everyone in the room to huddle and announce proudly that Ms.XYZ is soon becoming a grandmother. There is a 90% chance that Ms.XYZ might get offended and escalate this as major embarrassment since indirectly her age is revealed and the content shared with you is very personal. So make it a point to ask the person if he/she is okay to reveal information shared with you at a personal level. Always double-check unless you know the person for a long time and understand their likes/dislikes.
Likewise, marital status & politics is a very sensitive topic in US or Europe. Never make them feel uncomfortable with your gestures/body language when getting to know about their government, family and broken marriages. These are very sensitive issues and need to be handled with care.
At work be punctual to your meetings and avoid excuses. In the Western culture, it might be mistaken as you not valuing their time when you are late regularly. They could take it as a personal insult and escalate this into a serious account management problem. So beware and act wisely.
To sum it up, whenever you visit any country make sure you go through the cultural orientation course to understand the nuances of every culture and make sure you take help from your peers who are already there at the customer’s location to understand their sensitivities.
Look at a great TED talk on cross cultural communication here!
The Editorial Board