Friday, June 29, 2007

Cross cultural communication

Can you deal with other business cultures without knowing their language(s)?
Yes, and no. Yes, if you have a language which both of you can speak, and no, when the business cultures are too different and both of you are too prejudiced.

But how to manage business people acting globally? Simple, adapting to the business culture in the country you want to do business with. And for the sake of mankind, leave all your prejudices at home.
Dutch people like me tend to be critical. Not to put someone else down, or to let someone to loose his face. No, I am critical because I want to learn and listen to others, and don't want to take everything for granted. So, being critical means, I am interested.

The Netherlands is a small but, business-wise, important country. We were invaded by the Scandinavians, the French, Italians, Spanish and the Germans. But we are still there. And know how to trade. In fact the first multinational was the VOC.

At the same time, the Dutch speaks 3.6 (average) foreign languages. Basically, always English, German and French. But you will find easily Dutch people speaking 5 or more languages.

About cross cultural communication, which has also to do with dealing with other cultures and habits, two Dutch people became famous about this subject. Fons Trompenaars, with his books: Riding the Waves of Culture, Seven Cultures of Capitalism, Building Cross-Cultural Competence and 21 Leaders for the 21st Century, and Geert Hofstede, check out his site:


the Husband said...

Hans, i would suggest the Knights Templars was the first global multinational company with their banking interests stretching from Jerusalem to Scotland. I was under the impression the VOC was only Dutch although based along the trade routes to the East Indies.

With regard to language the alternative is to act as the Brits and Yanks do, "do you speak English? No, well find me someone who does...."

I think you will find that most successful businesses adopt local habits after a time. When working in Turkey for example you have to work out the power lines and then make sure the boss never loses face in front of the underlings. This is even more apparent of you work with the Government Agencies where all decisions come from the top, makes for difficult management on construction projects I can tell you...Even as a Brit working in the US I have had to make cultural adjustments including linguistic ones. The great trading countries and companies ie UK, Holland have always shown this adaptability, although the use of selective monopolies has not harmed their interests.

Hans A.H.C. de Wit said...

You mean the crusaders?
What I know is that in fact the Vatican is now the biggest multi national.
I worked as VP and International communication manager for Turkish companies. And yes, they are pretty top down.
Now I work and for Turkish companies, which is fun.
Thanks for the tips, but I stay far away from government..))

the Husband said...

Not the crusaders. The knights Templars were part of that time and were founded in Jerusalem but rapidly spread as an order, think Da Vinci code, Roslin Chapel. Algterntaoively known I think as the Knights Hospittalers they became immensley rich and powerful and were finally exterminated by the French I think on the orders of the Pope something to doi with the Holy Grail I believe. However they were I have read one of the first organised banking and trading organisations. Of course the Jews were porbably the first international bankers and business people but as a company the Knights Templars are right up there.

You forget of course about the British Royal Navy which for a long time was the single biggest industrial organization in Europe and fairly multinational, there were more than 10 different nationalities on Nelsons Victory at Trafalgar for example, concerned with the design, manufacture of navy ships and which led indirectly to the establishment of the City of London to finance it all and Lloyds of London to insure it all......

and yes working for the Turkish Govt is quite stressful and that when they decide to pay you....