Networking Amidst Cultural Differences

Photo Courtesy of Potowizard

Photo Courtesy of Potowizard

Understanding cultural differences when doing business around the world is  becoming more important in a global society.  Even within large countries like the United States, there are definitely differences from one region to another.  When you go beyond that and look at one country vs. another, the differences become even more impactful on business.

When we concentrate on similarities with each other in business, the differences aren’t that important.  Problems arise when the differences appear to be all there are.  When entrepreneurs focus on the perceived differences between each other in business, these differences can become stumbling blocks to developing a strong relationship, which is, after all, the ultimate goal of networking.  When you factor in differences in communication and behavioral styles it exacerbates the perceived differences.

Although many networking basics are universal, if you can factor in these and other cultural nuances you will definitely get a leg up when doing business in other countries.  Your networking etiquette will be greatly appreciated as your business increasingly takes you into other countries, especially if you can learn a few words or commonly practiced traditions of that country.  Showing this kind of respect will go a long way in making a smoother connection with the local business people you are trying to work with.

The old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans” is very appropriate.  However, one thing I’d strongly suggest–don’t just “do as the Romans,” take the time to actually “ask a few Romans.”  I have had amazing suggestions from local business people I knew in other countries who thoroughly prepped me for the cultural differences in networking prior to my arrival in their country.  Their counseling and coaching made a huge difference in my ability to connect in an appropriate way throughout many of the countries I have visited.

If you have any useful tips or bits of advice for successfully networking in a certain country or region of the globe, please–by all means–share this information in the comments section.  You never know who you could be helping!

Networking in Thailand, Malaysia, or Japan?–Dos and Don’ts to Note

Understanding cultural differences when doing business and networking around the world is  becoming increasingly important in this global society (click here for an explanation).

On a related note, I posted a blog entry a few weeks ago outlining valuable tips from top networking experts in China and Vietnam which will help people traveling to those countries to position themselves for the most successful outcome when networking and doing business there.  I promised that I would revisit the topic of what to do when preparing to network in Asia by posting another blog specifically offering advice on networking in Thailand, Malaysia, and Japan–today I am following through with that promise.

Thai and Malaysian business networking expert Avryl Au (pictured above) has a number of important recommendations for networking and conducting business in Thailand and Malaysia:

  • When doing business in Thailand, they do not shake hands.  Instead, they put their hands together (palm to palm) and place them just in front of their face, close their mouth, and bow slightly.  It is acceptable for foreigners to do the same.
  • In Malaysia, Au says that the handshake is the official way to greet, but after that you put your right hand on your heart.  Westerners generally have a firm handshake.  However, in Malaysia the handshake is generally softer.  This is not a sign of weakness.  It is simply the cultural norm.  Again, foreigners may do the same.

Asato Ohno (pictured below), one of Japan’s leading experts on networking says, “One big difference between the Japanese culture and Western business culture is an activity the Japanese call ‘nominication,’ which means drinking communication.”  According to Ohno, “In order to build any kind of meaningful business relationship with your associates, you must go out for dinner and drinks.”

While this concept is not foreign in Western business culture, it is something that is much, much more important in Japan.  Ohno says, “People believe they can build deeper relationships with others more quickly by drinking together.  It is almost like having casual one-to-one meetings regularly.  Therefore, it is important for any business person to prepare and to plan for ‘nominication’ sessions in order to be successful.”

Finally, exchanging business cards is an essential part of most cultures.  In most Asian countries, after a person has introduced him or herself and bowed, the business card ceremony begins.  In Japan, this is called meishi The card is presented to the other person with the front side facing upwards toward the recipient.  Offering the card with both hands holding the top corners of the card demonstrates respect to the other person.

The business card is admired much more in Asian culture than it is to us here in Western society.  It is truly an extension of the individual and should always be treated with respect.  Things like tucking it into a pocket after receiving it, writing on it, bending or folding it in any way, or even looking at it again after you have first accepted it and looked at it are not considered polite and can insult your fellow Asian networker.

So, with that last recommendation, I think I’ll grab some business cards, set a reservation at a local restaurant, contact some business associates, and start a little nominication of my own. Cheers.

Preparing to Network in Asia?–Consider These Valuable Tips

Last week I posted a blog about how cultural differences play into global networking and how understanding those differences becomes very important as we do business around the world.

On a related note, I’d like to offer some valuable tips I’ve picked up from a handful of networking experts in Asian countries–today I’ll focus on China and Vietnam and in the coming weeks, I’ll revisit this topic and provide the additional advice which comes from experts in Malaysia and Japan.

One of China’s leading experts on networking, Jihong Hall (pictured with me below), says that “face is everything to the Chinese.”  When used in a business context, face is not something you wash or shave but is something that is granted or lost.  In China the word face is an idiom for dignity, prestige, honor, respect, and status.  According to Hall, Westerners often make jokes at their own expense or at other people’s expense.  They have a knack for laughing at themselves.  However, she strongly recommends that you do not do this with the Chinese until you know them very, very well.  If you lose their face you will lose their business.

She has three additional recommendations when working with the Chinese:

  • When negotiating, always keep plenty in reserve.  A deal must be a compromise in which you have given enough ground so that their face is satisfied.
  • Numbers are very important to the Chinese.  For example, if your company was formed in 1944 it is best not to mention it because that means “death, death” in Chinese culture.  Even prices and fees charged are guided by the right numbers.
  • How you look is VERY important.  Dress well.  Smart, casual dress is fine; however, wear stylish clothes.

Vietnamese business networking expert Ho Quang Minh (pictured above) also recommends that you look formal when doing business in Asian countries.  He says:

  •  Westerners should be aware that some Asian businesspeople may talk less because they do not feel comfortable speaking English.  Don’t assume that they are not highly successful or that they are not driven business professionals simply because they come across as quiet or reserved.
  • Discuss business over a meal.  Do not go straight to the point at the first meeting.

What do you think of this advice–do you find it helpful?  If you are a networker in Asia or commonly network in Asian countries, what has your experience been?  Do you have any insights to share?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section.

 

 

How Do Cultural Differences Play into Global Networking?

Understanding cultural differences when doing business around the world is  becoming more important in a global society.  Even within large countries like the United States, there are definitely differences from one region to another.  When you go beyond that and look at one country vs. another, the differences become even more impactful on business.

When we concentrate on similarities with each other in business, the differences aren’t that important.  Problems arise when the differences appear to be all there are.  When entrepreneurs focus on the perceived differences between each other in business, these differences can become stumbling blocks to developing a strong relationship, which is, after all, the ultimate goal of networking.  When you factor in differences in communication and behavioral styles it exacerbates the perceived differences.

Although many networking basics are universal, if you can factor in these and other cultural nuances you will definitely get a leg up when doing business in other countries.  Your networking etiquette will be greatly appreciated as your business increasingly takes you into other countries, especially if you can learn a few words or commonly practiced traditions of that country.  Showing this kind of respect will go a long way in making a smoother connection with the local business people you are trying to work with.

The old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans” is very appropriate.  However, one thing I’d strongly suggest–don’t just “do as the Romans,” take the time to actually “ask a few Romans.”  I have had amazing suggestions from local business people I knew in other countries who thoroughly prepped me for the cultural differences in networking prior to my arrival in their country.  Their counseling and coaching made a huge difference in my ability to connect in an appropriate way throughout many of the countries I have visited.

Be sure to come back next week where I’ll be sharing some valuable tips I’ve picked up about doing business and networking within the Asian market.  In the meantime, if you have any useful tips or bits of advice for successfully networking in a certain country or region of the globe, please–by all means–share this information in the comments section.  You never know who you could be helping!

 

Can Cultural Differences be Affecting Your Networking Success?

 

A few weeks ago, I spoke at an event in Israel and while I was there, I got to talking to my good friend Sam Schwartz about the very different networking styles and tendencies which occur from country to country.

It is very important to consider and respect cultural differences when networking and doing business in different countries across the globe and, in this short video, Sam and I discuss why it is important and how you can prepare yourself in order to achieve great networking results no matter where in the world you may be.

After watching the video, please share your own stories in the comments section about the differences in business and networking styles and tendencies you’ve observed when networking in various countries around the world.  Also, be sure to visit the following website which is a fantastic educational resource in regard to cultural differences: www.ExecutivePlanet.com.

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