Increasing Cultural Awareness; An Important Step In Conducting Successful International Business

Increasing Cultural Awareness; An Important Step In Conducting Successful International Business

On September 14th, 2016 The McPherson Industrial Development Company held their regularly scheduled “lunch and learn” as a part of their industrial business retention program.   This month’s topic dealt with increasing cultural awareness. A person’s level of sensitivity to cultural differences, we learned, could make or break an international business deal.

Our presenter was Emmanuel Ngomsi, Ph.D., Corporate Trainer,  Speaker and Award Winning Educator. Ngomsi is President of All World Languages and Cultures, Inc., a training and consulting corporation specializing in Intercultural Communication, Diversity Education, Team-building Facilitation and Language Services: Translations, Interpreting & Instruction. You can read more about Ngomsi and his company here.

Ngomsi, a native Cameroon has lived both in France and the United States, shared true experiences from people, including himself, from cultures very different from the U.S. to demonstrate what happens when you unconsciously apply your own culture’s rules to people from another culture. The results can lead to feelings of frustration, surprise, confusion, hurt, and in some cases even retaliation.

Because no one is an expert in their own culture, we can not expect to become an expert in another culture; cultural learning is a lifetime process.  With that said, Ngomsi taught the group that there are some things we can do (or not do) to prevent some unintentional insults;

For example:

  • Learn the customary greeting in the country you are going to- you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Conforming to the customs of the visiting country not only shows that you’ve taken the time to learn about its culture but is a sign of respect to its hosts. Take time to learn the customary greetings before traveling.
  • Learn the appropriate pronunciation of the person’s name with whom you will be meeting; it’s always ok to ask for them for the appropriate pronunciation.
  • Treat business cards with utmost respect; when you receive one, take it with BOTH hands, look it over and ask questions before simply sticking it into your pocket. Essentially, show that card some respect.
  • Never use acronyms when communicating; every country has their own acronyms. To ensure clear communication, it’s best to stay away from them.
  • Language- learn to speak plain, direct English; speak slowly and clearly avoid colloquialisms, metaphors, jargon, and idioms. Try to imagine what a colloquialism or idiom might mean to someone new to the English language.

September’s meeting was the fourth of five scheduled learning opportunities designed to increase the savviness of McPherson’s industrial employers in international exporting. Back in January, MIDC and Kansas Global offered a program designed to help McPherson businesses learn more about the resources available to help develop and execute a well-designed exporting plan. Attendees learned just how profitable a well designed, and a well-executed plan could be to businesses and, in turn, our local economy (read more).

In June attendees learned about Incoterms; what they are, practical applications of these terms and also received suggestions/best practices for use.  These terms are meant to provide clear and concise communications between buyers and sellers; knowing how to use them properly can provide a clear strategic advantage and significantly reduce the company’s risk (read more).

In July program, businesses learned about ways to reduce risk when collecting international payment by knowing the four different payment methods exporters can use and when you might want to consider using a certain method over another depending on the risk level associated with the transaction (read more).

September’s  “Lunch and Learn” was the last program of 2016.  We will resume in 2017. Stay tuned for 2017 meeting details.