Tips on how to handle names, business cards, small talk, local interest, and self-promotion.
Among many business people, there is the common belief that “Business is business wherever you are.” Yet it is more accurate to say that “Business is different wherever you are, and there are bottom line costs to ignoring the differences.” Cultural gaffes and blunders often lead to broken deals and lost opportunities. Unfortunately in the world of international business both Asian and American companies in particular fail to focus adequate attention on the areas of cross-cultural and language training. This is a surprise, considering Asia’s dedication to education in general and America ’s long experience in international business.
Confucianism holds that harmony in human affairs is first and foremost. Those in relationships — be they within the family, the organization or the nation — are expected to work together for the greater good of the whole. Rulers, leaders and dominant figures are responsible for the welfare of subordinates. Collectivist philosophies, such as Confucianism, are rife with nurturing, collaborative expectations between rulers and subjects. They are also the cultural keystones of most government-business relationships in Asia.
Check your supply of business cards before going on a trip to Asia so that you will not be caught short. Business cards are very important in the Asia-Pacific region, especially in Asian countries, and an executive who admits that he has run out of cards is an embarrassment to himself and others.
Gift giving is important in Asian countries, because of the significance of interpersonal relationships in their cultures.
What you need to do to minimize language problems in your Asia-Pacific business communications.
The two most useful phrases in international business negotiations are “I do not understand” and “what do you mean by that?” Yet these phrases are not used often enough, especially when the first languages of the negotiating parties are different.
One of the serious afflictions of International Communications Disorder (“ICD”) is loss of business. And complications from ICD include the loss of valuable time and good will in building productive business relationships. In an area as large and diverse as the Asia-Pacific region, it is not possible to prescribe specific cures for ICD. Circumstances vary too widely. It is possible, however, to lay out some basic guidelines which, in combination with an understanding of the region’s cultural signposts and individual countries, will serve the international business person well.
When pursuing opportunities and interests in an Asian country, whether you are a non-Asian or an Asian from a different Asian country, there are some important pathways to follow.
On the international scene, politicians enjoy an advantage over businesspeople. They can play to their constituencies back home or elsewhere, offend those with whom they are meeting, and ignore the business at hand.