The Importance of Knowing Foreign Cultures During the Process of Internationalization

Posted by Athena Parthenos

Knowing the culture of the country you are approaching can be critical when you want to start the process of internationalization at your business.

In fact, when you go global, you must have a multilingual marketing strategy that is made of different small steps that make your business successful on the international market. But we have already talked about this in a previous post.

What people often forget is what lies behind all those various steps—that is, the knowledge not only of the market, but also of the culture and the habits of the country you want to reach with your business, and the research work that comes with them. In fact, when analyzing the steps to take, you must be aware of the culture of the people you are going to make contact with in order not to misunderstand their behavior or words.

We often think that the business rules we apply in our country, or in the Western world in general, are universal. The truth is that every country has its own way to build business relationships that depends on its culture.

Here's what you need to take into consideration before approaching a foreign market in order to avoid embarrassing moments and misunderstandings.

Adapt to local frameworks

After conducting all the market analyses necessary to choose where you should expand your business into, you have to start studying the culture of that specific country and adapt your future actions to its language, sensibilities, administrative norms, mode of consumption, distribution, and competition. In other words, you have to adapt to local frameworks by tailoring your products or services to the local market in order to reach the people. If they perceive you as a reliable brand close to them, it is more likely that they will buy from you instead from buying the same product or service from one of your competitors.

Learn etiquette rules

Every country has its own etiquette rules that sometimes are extremely different from those of the country you come from. Before making any contact with the people in your target country, study its culture and its concept of politeness. For instance, if you have a business meeting in Argentina, prepare to wait 30 minutes for your counterpart, especially if he/she is an important person; being too early is perceived as rude. But if you are meeting someone in Japan, punctuality is everything.

Understand body language

You might think that body language is international, but it is not. It depends on the culture, therefore it changes with the country you are in. For instance, gesturing too much with your arms and hands, like Italians do, can be considered rude in some Asian countries. When Greeks or Bulgarians nod up and down, they mean "No." So, find out how people behave in common situations as well as in business contexts in the country you are interested in.

If you run a business and want to expand it internationally but you do not know where to start, or if you just need some tips, check out Athena Parthenos' multicultural management and communication services here.

Written by Marcella Sartore, Marketing & Communication Assistant @ Athena Parthenos

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