Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When a Deal Gets Lost in the Translation; Financial Executive

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

When a Deal Gets Lost in the Translation; Financial Executive

Article excerpt


WHEN it comes to doing business internationally, being able to speak the various languages of your clients is important, but understanding their ways of doing business can be even valuable.

"People in Britain are to quick to assume that the international companies they deal with are Anglicised," says David Hughes, MD of Executive Connections. "But in an extremely competitive global market, taking the time to educate ourselves and implement some basic cross-cultural courtesies can make a huge difference."

As international trade increases, the importance of understanding the cultural environment of clients and seeking ways of meeting their needs grows. It is not difficult to offend people and ultimately ruin an business deal through basic cultural mistakes. Hughes reflects on an associate who started his business dealings in Japan on the wrong foot by learning what he thought was a Japanese greeting, but which turned out to have something to do with sheep.

According to research conducted by Jonathan Wren, one of the City's best-known recruiters, the damage done by not addressing cultural differences can be quite serious and business can be lost through the simplest of things.

A glass of wine over a business lunch in Europe may be commonplace but the same thing in the US could horrify an American client.

The exchange of gifts can be a problem for British business people. Giving clients gifts here, unless it is Christmas, could easily be taken for bribery, but in many other places around the world gifts are part of the process.

Finding out about what you should give and to whom is paramount in avoiding an international faux pas.

In Japan, an expensive whisky may be appreciated, but the same gift in a Gulf State could land you in serious trouble.

Once you have chosen an appropriate gift for a Middle Eastern client, making sure you present it with the correct hand is vital, otherwise even the finest gift will be rejected, as well as future business. …

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