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International Business Culture Essay Introduction

Why Culture Is Important In Doing International Business?

Introduction

In the business world today, borders are blending and multi-national mergers are causing many company nationalities to become indistinct. As the globalization of markets rapidly increases, many companies are finding international expansion a necessity of competition. The world is greatly affected by this movement towards a global market, and many companies are finding it extremely important to adapt to other cultures. The most considerable obstructions to successful international marketing involve misinterpretations and contrary views resulting from cultural differences. Being both aware of some of these issues and prepared to make the necessary accommodations can save companies time, effort, and a considerable amount of money.

Culture, being intangible in shape, builds up of a particular society's behaviors, from religion beliefs to dressing style to art to methods of farming. Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (1997, p.3) consider that culture is a shared belief of a group of people. Also, according to Mahoney, Trigg, Griffin and Pustay (2001, p373), culture is "the set of values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors and customs that distinguish a society". Besides, in the context of international management, culture is defined as "everything that people have, think, and do as members of their society." (Holt & Wigginton, 2002, cited in Ferraro, 1990). Culture reflects social rules however it might be defined, while business must be conducted within the context of the society, a society culture thereafter guides the firms how to run in such society. Understanding culture constituents might help companies visualize the effects on conducting business.

The reasons why understanding culture is important in doing international business will be discussed associated with examples. In further response to this question I will subdivide benefits from appreciation of culture as marketing products, managing workforces, and dealing with host country governments (Mahoney et al, 2001). Finally, the paper will conclude that doing business with multiple cultures can be a challenging venture; only those being well prepared for importance of understanding culture might eventually success.

Discussion

Doing business over borders and through time zones has become commonplace in the twenty-first century. International firms are consistently examined by the cultural differences between countries when they expand their products or services into foreign markets, and seek the most productive and talented employees of the world out. Technological advancements in communication and reductions in transport costs make it necessary to do business in a cross-cultural environment. Doing business with multiple cultures can be a challenging venture for companies who try to market abroad. Therefore, only those who understand the importance of the role of culture in international business activities can remain competitive advantages. Whereas,...

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As companies continue to expand across borders and the global marketplace becomes increasingly more accessible for small and large businesses alike, 2017 brings ever more opportunities to work internationally.

Multinational and cross-cultural teams are likewise becoming ever more common, meaning businesses can benefit from an increasingly diverse knowledge base and new, insightful approaches to business problems. However, along with the benefits of insight and expertise, global organizations also face potential stumbling blocks when it comes to culture and international business.

While there are a number of ways to define culture, put simply it is a set of common and accepted norms shared by a society. But in an international business context, what is common and accepted for a professional from one country, could be very different for a colleague from overseas. Recognizing and understanding how culture affects international business in three core areas: communication, etiquette, and organizational hierarchy can help you to avoid misunderstandings with colleagues and clients from abroad and excel in a globalized business environment.

1. Communication

Effective communication is essential to the success of any business venture, but it is particularly critical when there is a real risk of your message getting “lost in translation.” In many international companies, English is the de facto language of business. But more than just the language you speak, it’s how you convey your message that’s important. For instance, while the Finns may value directness and brevity, professionals from India can be more indirect and nuanced in their communication. Moreover, while fluent English might give you a professional boost globally, understanding the importance of subtle non-verbal communication between cultures can be equally crucial in international business.

What might be commonplace in your culture — be it a firm handshake, making direct eye contact, or kiss on the cheek — could be unusual or even offensive to a foreign colleague or client. Where possible, do your research in advance of professional interactions with individuals from a different culture. Remember to be perceptive to body language, and when in doubt, ask. While navigating cross-cultural communication can be a challenge, approaching cultural differences with sensitivity, openness, and curiosity can help to put everyone at ease.

“There is an atmosphere of understanding and support at Hult. Everyone has this respect and curiosity for all the cultural and personal differences between us. This environment encourages everyone to strive for excellence.”

Tatiana Ufimtceva
Hult MBA Class of 2014

At Hult, we’re fortunate to have a student body made up of over 130 different nationalities. With the opportunity to study alongside peers from all corners of the globe, building cross-cultural communication skills is at the core of our business programs.

Watch Hult Professor Jean Vanhoegaerden discussing why culture is important in international business:

2. Workplace etiquette

Different approaches to professional communication are just one of the innumerable differences in workplace norms from around the world. CT Business Travel has put together a useful infographic for a quick reference of cultural differences in business etiquette globally.

For instance, the formality of address is a big consideration when dealing with colleagues and business partners from different countries. Do they prefer titles and surnames or is being on the first-name basis acceptable? While it can vary across organizations, Asian countries such as South Korea, China, and Singapore tend to use formal “Mr./Ms. Surname,” while Americans and Canadians tend to use first names. When in doubt, erring on the side of formality is generally safest.

The concept of punctuality can also differ between cultures in an international business environment. Different ideas of what constitutes being “on time” can often lead to misunderstandings or negative cultural perceptions. For example, where an American may arrive at a meeting a few minutes early, an Italian or Mexican colleague may arrive several minutes — or more — after the scheduled start-time (and still be considered “on time”).

Along with differences in etiquette, come differences in attitude, particularly towards things like workplace confrontation, rules and regulations, and assumed working hours. While some may consider working long hours a sign of commitment and achievement, others may consider these extra hours a demonstration of a lack of efficiency or the deprioritization of essential family or personal time.

3. Organizational hierarchy

Organizational hierarchy and attitudes towards management roles can also vary widely between cultures. Whether or not those in junior or middle-management positions feel comfortable speaking up in meetings, questioning senior decisions, or expressing a differing opinion can be dictated by cultural norms. Often these attitudes can be a reflection of a country’s societal values or level of social equality. For instance, a country such as Japan, which traditionally values social hierarchy, relative status, and respect for seniority, brings this approach into the workplace. This hierarchy helps to define roles and responsibilities across the organization. This also means that those in senior management positions command respect and expect a certain level of formality and deference from junior team members.

However, Scandinavian countries, such as Norway, which emphasize societal equality, tend to have a comparatively flat organizational hierarchy. In turn, this can mean relatively informal communication and an emphasis on cooperation across the organization. When defining roles in multinational teams with diverse attitudes and expectations of organizational hierarchy, it can be easy to see why these cultural differences can present a challenge.

As part of our mission to become the world’s most relevant business school, Hult is dedicated to preparing our students for the challenges and opportunities of working across borders and cultures. A big part of this preparation is understanding the role culture plays in international business. In many ways, the Hult classroom mirrors today’s business environment, with students of 130 nationalities collaborating and studying together. And not only are our students multicultural, our faculty is too. Many have lived, worked, and taught across Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and beyond.

Outside of the classroom, Hult students have the opportunity to experience life, culture, and commerce in today’s most dynamic business centers through our global campus rotation program. This international learning environment offers a truly global perspective and unique insight into culture and business practices from all over the world.

 


Discover how  Hult’s global programs are designed to hone your cross-cultural competency


Have you ever encountered cultural differences in your workplace that were surprising? Tell us in the comments below.

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