Ready, Set, Go…….with cultural knowledge

When you travel abroad, building trust and confidence with your international colleagues is key to success. That is why when you are on a business trip or a short-term assignment, it is imperative that you make a good first impression.  Less time in a destination means that you will not have the luxury of trial and error, and fewer opportunities to undo any negative impressions you may make.

It is often said that in order to begin understanding another culture, you should be aware of your individual cultural preferences.  We often take this for granted until we are faced with a cultural impasse.

For example: Without being aware of it, you may have a strong orientation towards individualism.  This does not mean you are not a team player! The individual oriented person can respect and encourage competition between individuals, recognize individuals who stand out or excel, or delegate work to individuals rather than the entire team.  In individual orientation cultures like the Netherlands, the United States, or South Africa, this approach can work very well.  However, in cultures that value the group over the individual, such as Japan, Singapore, or Brazil, a strong individual orientation may not get you the results you need.

Here are just a few ways that an individual oriented person can adjust their approach in a group oriented culture:

  • Focus on how the results or changes will be good for the group.
  • Work with team/partnering approaches – small groups with reporting to the larger group.  Allow colleagues to consult with each other without being suspicious about it.
  • Delegate to groups or teams.
  • Foster group discussion and ask questions. Allow group members to consult with each other and spend time working out their responses, questions and concerns.
  • Provide feedback, recognition, and rewards to groups.
  • Recognize that establishing and maintaining relations takes precedence over task completion.

— By Catherine Mercer Bing, author of Many Cultures, One Team: Build Your Cultural Repertoire

You can gain valuable insights about yourself, as well as the cultural preferences of others, by completing The Culture in the Workplace Questionnaire™ available in Living Abroad’s online cultural training platform, The Culture Coach.  This validated questionnaire was developed by the renowned social psychologist, Dr. Geert Hofstede.  Your responses to the questionnaire produce a display of cultural preferences along six cultural dimensions: Individualism, Power Distance, Certainty, Achievement, Time Orientation and Indulgence. This also provides you with better understanding of how cultural preferences influence cross cultural relationships and communication.

The Questionnaire takes just twenty minutes to complete. In it, you are asked to choose your level of agreement with sixty statements. Your individual Cultural Profile will allow you to compare your results to cultural preferences found in five other countries. The Profile covers the six dimensions shown below.

If you are a business traveler or short-term assignee, use The Culture Coach to quickly determine how unique cultural preferences can impact the critical first impressions you make. Twenty minutes can make all the difference to your success!

Written by Diane McGreal – Cultural Expert, Living Abroad