Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

When in Rome: A Rationale and Selection of Resources in International Business Etiquette and Intercultural Communication. (the Alert Collector)

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

When in Rome: A Rationale and Selection of Resources in International Business Etiquette and Intercultural Communication. (the Alert Collector)

Article excerpt

Increased globalization has been one of the most important developments in the past decade. The Internet has been instrumental in accelerating the growth of business across borders. The ability to effectively conduct business with trading partners around the world is essential in the twenty-first century. Savvy companies view the development of international business etiquette and communication skills as a strategy to distinguish their company from competing firms. One business educator has cautioned, "Being closely attuned to the orientations of diverse trading partners is an increasingly important advantage in the highly competitive global marketplace, where only the very best thrive." (1) Colleges and universities have responded to this need by integrating international perspectives into the curricula. Business schools in particular have worked to internationalize the curriculum, partially through the expansion of international business communication courses. (2) Even student clubs have recognized the need for enhanced understanding of other cultures, sponsoring popular business etiquette dinners and workshops on global business protocol.

There are numerous anecdotes about companies that have failed to understand the cultural nuances of doing business abroad. Nancy Woodward has chronicled the gaffes that prominent multinational companies have made, often a result of awkward translations of English-language slogans. Among the most embarrassing blunders were Pepsi's "Come Alive" advertising campaign, which means "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave" when translated into Chinese, and Kentucky Fried Chicken's "finger lickin' good" slogan, which means "eat your fingers off" in Chinese. (3) The Internet presents additional challenges when it comes to intercultural communication. For example, Americans may unintentionally offend business clients in other countries by their informal manner of e-mail. In other cultures, it is considered rude to address individuals by their first name or to begin an e-mail message in a businesslike manner, neglecting polite small talk. (4) Even Web sites can be problematic. Woodward warns that companies need to understand the meanings that numbers and colors have in some cultures, especially since certain ones signify death. (5)

Guest columnist Glenn McGuigan has personal experience with the famous quotation, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." He is proficient in Italian, having studied at the University of Siena's School for Foreigners. McGuigan is currently Business Reference Librarian at Penn State Harrisburg's Capital College, serving as the subject specialist for business as well as the behavioral sciences. He is also working toward a Master of Business Administration degree. Prior to his current appointment, he served as a reference librarian at Penn State Abington, Chatham College, and Carnegie Mellon University.--Editor

As the world becomes a smaller place due to the trend of globalization, the topic of international business etiquette and intercultural communication could not be more vital. Living in this increasingly interdependent world where business activity regularly crosses national borders, business travelers are confronted with the challenges of communicating effectively and respectfully with people of other cultures on a regular basis. Before taking a business trip abroad, the international businessperson needs to engage in research to be aware of the cultural mannerisms and social protocols of the society in which they are about to enter. Preparation for this task may be imperative to the deal making or deal breaking of a business venture abroad. While it is impossible to be cognizant of all the social cues and communication styles of a native, nor is this expected, a foreigner must pay attention to the importance of protocol in order to enhance the good will and respect of one's business host or counterpart. "The point is, protocol is taken more seriously `over there,' and respect for local customs is an important part of a successful international negotiation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.