Does your nationality and culture have a say in how you do business?

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Before I had the pleasure of meeting different people from all corners of the world , I did not care or even think of how we interact with each other when it came to doing business.

Interesting enough nationality and culture can have a great impact on your business negotiation when it comes to how we interact with each other and what we find interesting between different cultures and countries around the world.

Many of our participants over the years share their stories about different business opportunities, most of them are also about how to solve different issues, but a lot of them has to do with our differences both in culture, language and nationality.

It is also important to not only keep track and focus of what happens in the actual business deal, but also what happens before and after you settle the deal.

It has a profound impact if you are doing business in Europe, Asia or anywhere else in the world when it comes to the normal practice on how to conduct a business deal locally.

When some nationalities put a lot of effort in learning to know your opponent or business partner by socializing over dinner, playing golf, an evening out, etc, all of them have in common to get more understanding of your opponent one way or the other.

It is easy to think that just because two countries are close to each other makes it all easy and that it mean that they do business the same way as you when it comes to culture.

It has become a practice in Asia to get help from local professionals so you know how to interact locally and to do the right things so you don’t end up insulting a future business partner or friend.

Most people that do or has done business in Asia knows about this, and take it more seriously, the more they get to know the local game rules or shall we just call them local social business rules, the more successful they are in achieving their goals.

There is also a big differents between if you are a woman or a man in most parts of the world and if you are doing your business with a opponent of the same sex or not.

The language and social signals we use are quite interesting to follow and decode in this matters, and it is something you both have to practice and learn to understand over time whereever you do business in the world, especially if you want to be successful in the long run as a business man or woman.

If you take a closer look at Europe and Scandinavia, and even to the language you use when you interact, then the business dialogue gets even more interesting to follow and decode in a proper way between two different parties negotiating.

If you add that one of you are interacting in your native language or not, or if  both of you are using a non native language, then it gets even more complicated to follow.

It gets even more interesting, specially if you do not understand understatements and subtleties in the language you use, and if try to translate the meaning between the two languages word for word.

It is like trying to use Google translate when you communicate next time, it gives you an insight in the bridges we need to move on, to get to where we want in our business deals, and a better understanding of  what “lost in translation.” means.

So what about Scandinavia, what about Denmark and Sweden, is there a culture difference there that we need to adress and take in to consideration when we do business on either side of the bridge?

The simple answer is yes, hell yes, it is more of a difference than most people are prepared to acknowledge, and is something that you can write a book about or even do an university degree in, from my point of view ,just to understand.

One of the most common topic that is raised by both Swedes and Danes when it comes to communicating with each other, is how we take decisions and when a topic is settled or not.

A common issue or topic I get from the Danes is that they think they are in agreement after a meeting with Swedes, but when they get back home, they get a summary from the Swedes saying that most of the topics has to be agreed internally by the Swedes before they commit to anything.

The Swedes like to be in a internal agreement before taking any decisions, and the Danes like to take decisions more directly and do not need consensus from home to make an agreement.

Many times Swedish and Danish communication is done in English, due to that both parties do not understand each others native languages, add to this that they also have a different view of how to negotiate and how to do business.

If we add Norway and Finland in to this, we get even more aspects that we have to take into consideration before we can add up a decision between two business partners trying to get an agreement.

My advise to you that do cross country business deals is that first of all, take advice from someone who has the knowledge, and if you are unsure, try to be at least two persons so you can pick up more of what is said between the lines in your meeting.

Take time to understand and make sure both parties confirm that they had understood each other before moving forward in your business deal.

If you try to see global negotiation as a large onion, you can see every layer of the onion as a skillset that you need to be able to handle and to practice, and you need to be able to focus on what the other party actually mean to be able to reach what they want to have to settle a deal.

If you try to see culture and social rules as two other layers in your great onion, then you are beginning to understand that the business principles globally are the same, and that it is all more complex than we initially thought it to be.

If you for any reason don’t master the language, use a translator, if your opponent uses a translator, be aware that they maybe are doing it just to buy time before they have to answer your question.

You can always try out how much they understand by telling something funny, if they smile before they get it from the translator it gives you a indication of that they understand more than they are admitting.

We do not teach you any dirty tricks, but we can teach you how to dismantle any dirty tricks and how to get what you came for as long as you are focusing on being neutral in your behavior.

Christopher Blomquist
Senior Consultant BellBlomquist Consulting.

Lead Tutor Scotwork Scandinavia Sweden.

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