Dealing with Russians is nothing like dealing with Chinese, and dealing with Germans is nothing like dealing with French.
Indeed, despite globalization, cultural habits and preferences aren’t going anywhere, and understanding them is critical to international partnerships.
British linguist Richard Lewis and his consulting firm have extensively analysed cultural interactions, as detailed in his book, “When Cultures Collide.” (You’ll find more good analysis in recent bestseller “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer.)
We’ve published some of Lewis’ insights here and none more popular than a set of his communication charts. Now we’ve got permission to post many more in the series along with commentary from his book.
“A working knowledge of the basic traits of other cultures (as well as our own) will minimize unpleasant surprises (culture shock), give us insights in advance, and enable us to interact successfully with nationalities with whom we previously had difficulty,” Lewis writes.
Although cultural generalizations are controversial, Lewis insists it can be done fairly: “Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm.”
'Arabs are looking for sincerity in your dealings with them and expect to be shown the same respect they show you.'
'Argentineans can be won over by a combination of intellectual argument and openly friendly stance.'
When dealing with Austrians, 'do not be overly familiar early on, maintain distance and respect, and evince sophistication and erudition.'
Both Flemish and Walloon Belgians 'will be looking for certain qualities in you: pragmatism, profit-mindedness, flexibility, willingness to compromise, and the ability to respect the integrity and creativeness of a small country.'
When dealing with Brazilians, 'always show that you have a big heart and that you care about their personal problems as well as their competence on the job.'
Bulgarians 'seek recognition of their sterling values and steadfastness and are prepared to show great loyalty to those who become their friends.'
When dealing with Canadians, be ready to mirror their 'values of tolerance, calm, reasonableness and low-key utterances and behaviour.'
'If you maintain a positive attitude, treat them as equals, do business in a friendly manner and enjoy their magnificent countryside (and wine), you will find that you can easily build good relations with Chileans.'
When dealing with the Chinese, 'be extremely deferential at all times, combine courtesy ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼with firmness, show humility and respect for age and rank, don't overdo the logic, prepare your meetings in detail, don't speak in a loud voice or rush them, know your Chinese history, always keep your calm and, remember that patience and allowing adequate time for reflection are the keys to making progress, however slow it may seem.'
'Colombians appreciate closeness and even compassion from foreign colleagues or partners; don't hesitate to show warmth whenever possible.'
Croatians 'want logical arguments spiced with a little verve, but they are suspicious of rhetoric or too much charisma.'
Czechs 'like an approach that leads to calm discussion and the discovery of solutions that suit all concerned.'
Estonians 'expect no favours, just straightforward dealing on the basis that they can be trusted and will perform.'
'Low profile works wonders with Finns. Never boast. When you have said your piece, do not expect any feedback. They are thinking about what you have said; they do not think and talk at the same time.'
'When dealing with French, 'stick to logic at all times, avoiding American-style hunches or British-style 'feel for situations.''
Germans 'are generally convinced that they are the most honest, reliable, and sincere people in the world, also in their business negotiations. Show them that in this respect you are their equal.'
When dealing with Greeks, 'combine friendliness with shrewdness and firmness -- they are tough negotiators.'
'Mexicans (and other Hispanic Americans) are not difficult people to get along with as long as you bear in mind their preoccupation with personal and national honour and take great pains to protect their face at all times.'
When dealing with Indians, 'be flexible at all times. Accept that there is a great deal of chaos, and remember that they manage it better than you do.'
'Indonesians are very friendly and you should reciprocate this. Courtesy and gentleness are mandatory.'
Israelis can 'be swayed by good speakers who stick to facts and reason and who know something that they do not know.'
'Italians are much more polite, on the surface, than northerners, so you will often appear overly frank, blunt and even rude, although you do not intend this. Try to adopt a certain Italian smoothness or delicacy and use flattery more than you normally would.'
'Latvians are proud and usually quite bright; they appreciate being treated as intellectual equals.'
When dealing with the Dutch, 'show that you are punctual, honest, dependable, rational and egalitarian.'
'As Asians, Filipinos expect modesty, gentleness and courtesy. Because of their Spanish influence, they expect warmth, respect and close personal relations.'
'Treat such concepts as honour, chivalry and old-fashioned gallantry as meaningful qualities in a Polish context.'
When dealing with Portuguese, 'Listen for subtlety -- they occasionally want you to read between the lines.'
When dealing with Russians, 'indicate your human side -- emotions, hopes, and aspirations. They are much more interested in your personal goals than in your commercial objectives.'
When dealing with Scottish,'you should lay more emphasis on sincerity and straight, uncomplicated dealing.'
When dealing with Singaporeans, 'conform to the republic's disciplined, law-abiding, somewhat sober way of life; eccentricity will win you few medals and will erode your credibility.'
'When conversing with (Spaniards) it is best to shed some of your cool tendencies, forget the dictates of time, admit that some roguery actually exists in your country, confess to a few private sins or misdemeanours, ask them some rather personal questions, stay up drinking with them until 3:00 in the morning, and in general let your hair down.'
'Though suspicious of 'ex-colonialists,' Africans are quickly gratified by reasonable establishment of trust between parties.'
When dealing with Swedes, 'your best approach is to defer to their wish for long, all-round consultation; demonstrate clearly your own patience and understanding, allied to firmness and integrity.'
'You do not have to be exciting to make the Swiss like you; they are looking for solidity and reliability in the people they deal with.'
Turks 'listen with some scepticism, but generally impute best motives and are rarely unreasonable unless they feel that they are being duped.'
'When dealing with British, your strongest weapon is dry humour, supported by a cool, laid-back approach.'
'You should always attempt to appear straightforward, honest, but quite tough in your dealings with Americans, who will respect resilience, open disagreement and alertness and strong cards.'
When dealing with Venezuelans, 'you should offer your help frequently when they have business or personal problems and be willing to share their conspiracies and avoid strict adherence to rules and regulations.'
Lewis, who was born in northern England of Welsh heritage, has this advice for dealing with his people: 'When dealing with the more hard-headed northern English, Scots or Welsh, you should lay more emphasis on sincerity and straight, uncomplicated dealing.'
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