This Ain’t Home

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This, by the way, is wrong. One should always stand when shaking hands.

The primary foundation of Redleaf Consulting is simple:  Cultures are different.

I’m still confounded that I need to state that fact–and baffled by the fact that people (especially people doing international business) don’t understand it.

In a post a while ago regarding the recent “College Admissions Scandal“, Dan Harris, over at China Law Blog 1If you don’t already follow the blog, I strongly suggest that you do.  Even if you have zero business in China, the topics they discuss–and examples they share–provide a very frank view of what is involved in doing business in a different country and culture., made a comment that leapt out at me:

Why do things like the above happen? Because of cultural differences. Because people just assume that because something is done just so in their country it is also done just so everywhere else as well. Because people simply do not know how things are done in another country and they also do not know how to retain the right people to help them in that other country.

I can’t stress this enough.

I live less than 250km from Chicago.  And yet the cultures of Madison and Chicago are significantly different–different enough that I’d consider consulting Chicago natives before entering into sensitive business negotiations there.  Doing business in another country?  The phrase “you don’t know what you don’t know” comes to mind.

My basic cross-cultural businesses classes feature an entire hour on “business introductions”.  This includes how to say “hello” 2Or rather, all the different way in which we greet each other., how to state your name and company, how to shake hands, how to present and accept business cards, and properly addressing people using family names.

All of this is a no-brainer, right?  Wrong!  Other cultures don’t do these things the way we do–if at all.  If you can’t understand how each other expect to be greeted, how can you understand what they expect in a complex business negotiation?

Footnotes   [ + ]

1.If you don’t already follow the blog, I strongly suggest that you do.  Even if you have zero business in China, the topics they discuss–and examples they share–provide a very frank view of what is involved in doing business in a different country and culture.
2.Or rather, all the different way in which we greet each other.

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