International Business: Different Cultures Different Rules

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In George Osborne’s 2015 Autumn Statement, it was announced that the treasury has put £45m aside to help encourage businesses to export, especially to South East Asia. With various start-up schemes, apprenticeships and placements available to students, the opportunities for Brits to conduct more business abroad seem promising.

Simon Ball, CEO of Italian Villa Company Tuscany Now, has 25 years’ experience of working internationally and operating in different cultures. With offices in Barcelona, London and customers from all around the world, he explains that international relationships are key to making his business work.

Understanding cultural differences in business is key to international success. Taking the time to understand certain processes and how things work can play a big part in building relationships and making a good first impression.

In Italy trust is very important to business relationships and recommendations aren’t given out lightly. Your recommendation is your word, making mutual friends very valuable in networking situations.

Some things considered polite in the UK could be deemed rude abroad and vice versa. By learning the etiquette of a country it can be an easy way to show your politeness and also avoid making any mistakes that could jeopardise your goal.

In Canada it’s rude to show up late, where in India it’s seen as acceptable. You can never leave a meeting early in Brazil. In China bringing a small gift from your hometown or country to a business meeting is seen as a sign of respect, but you must reject the gift three times before finally accepting with great gratitude, as if not to appear greedy.

The world is becoming more and more interconnected making international business much easier, but one barrier that stands in the way of global unity is language. English has been known as the universal business language for some time; however with other economies on the rise fluency in multiple languages is one of the most sought after skills in international employment.

Translation mistakes can be an easy to make and KFC knows this better than most. When translating its slogan to Chinese, “Finger-Lickin’ Good” turned into “We’ll eat your fingers off”. But KFC isn’t alone, as sweetcorn brand “Jolly Green Giant” is known as the “Intimidating Green Monster” in Arabic.

A different country means different rules on tax, laws and trading. The European Union does enforce certain laws and standards to help businesses run more smoothly, but once outside the European border it can get a little messy with unfamiliar rules and regulations coming into play.

In China intellectual property (IP) laws are almost non-existent and piracy runs riot. Companies like Amazon and Starbucks have also used differing tax laws in order to reduce their tax contributions, although in the UK George Osborne is combatting this with a 25% tax on such activity dubbed the ‘Google Tax’.

As the world continues to become more interconnected it’s safe to assume there will be more and more international opportunities available for budding students. Whether it is your dream job, a start-up or a chance for expansion, it is worth doing your research to find out which country is right for you.


Author Bio
Simon Ball is CEO of Italian Villa Company Tuscany Now. He has over 25 years of experience working in the UK and Europe.

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