Understanding cultural difference encourages effective communication and wins more business internationally

It has been widely recognised that cultural awareness has become very important for small and mid-sized companies to sell successfully in the international market. Communicating well makes all the difference in giving companies a competitive edge. To be successful in international business you need to minimise any misunderstanding about how you behave and what you say.

Cultural awareness and basic language training is a simple, cost effective and long term solution for many businesses. “I am passionate about the importance of language and culture, bringing people closer and bridging the gap between individuals and cultures”, says Gerti Willis, Language & Culture Adviser, UKTI West Midlands.

Success overseas is all about being prepared.

Some important tips for international business culture awareness are:

  • Spending time on relationship building is extremely important in many cultures. You may need to visit a potential client several times before a deal comes to fruition – never try to rush things.
  • Learn a couple of key phases – even if the other person speaks your language, they will appreciate the effort and you will stand out from your competitors.
  • Web users are four times more likely to purchase from a site that communicates relevant information in their own language, so consider having your website checked by our Export Communication Adviser.
  • Avoid culture-bound clichés or literary references as the chances are they do not translate and would be misunderstood by your target audience.
  • Make sure your written materials are translated professionally. At worst, technical manuals could have health and safety implications if inexpertly translated.
  • Keep sentences short and simple as they will translate better.
  • UK Trade & Investment can help you to source quality-assured translators from our database of language service providers.
  • Make use of our very successful market specific Business Culture seminars as they will equip you to avoid embarrassing situations.
  • Find out how our Postgraduate for International Business scheme can be a very effective way to support your export strategy. The scheme is aimed at firms who need help with some aspect of international business, and it provides them with an appropriately qualified graduate on a temporary placement to work on a specific project.

For further information about market specific language and cultural awareness issues please contact Gerti Willis, Language & Culture Adviser UKTI West Midlands on 0121 607 1942 / email: gerti.willis@mobile.ukti.gov.uk; or to find out how UKTI can help your business expand overseas call 0345 2220159.