Working internationally

Doing business abroad - 5 things to research

There are countless things you can prepare before doing business abroad, but start with these, and you will have some really strong basics!

doing business abroad
123rf.com/Sergey Skripnikov

We get it, there is a lot on your plate right now if you have an assignment abroad. You have a lot to prepare for, and so much is going on. If it seems that deciding on what to begin with is hard, we are here to help! There are countless things you can prepare for when doing business abroad, but start with these, and you will have some really strong basics!

Five tips on what to research before doing business abroad:

Tip no 1 – Etiquette

This is a good start, as etiquette rules are pretty clear and learnable. Each country has their own set, and they usually play an important role in the business world. In a relatively short time you can gain a lot of helpful knowledge. Greetings, dos and don’ts during a negotiation and/or office life in general, being a good guest/host, how to act during a business dinner or an after work meetup, what to bring/not to bring as a present, accepted topics for small-talk, what constitutes a good handshake, these are just a couple of examples of things you can look up before setting out on your international business quest.

Tip no 2 – Communication styles

There is a scientific approach to the different cultures’ different communication styles, and you can easily research and learn about them before doing business abroad. But if you don’t want to dig really deep, just assure that you won’t drop a brick during one of your meetings, or that in general you will be equipped to communicate smoothly with your foreign colleagues and partners, you can prepare for that as well. Here are some tips on what you can look into: Is their communication very formal, restricted only to the professional questions, or do they rather prefer talking on a more personal note? Do they try to avoid conflict at all costs, or are there other values, ranking higher than not entering into conflict? How acceptable is to openly disagree? On the other hand: what is their non-verbal communication like? Is touching considered inappropriate, or an accepted way of expressing trust? The more you know about the communication in a country, the easier and more natural it will be for you to find your way in the new surroundings.

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Tip no 3 – Outside of work relationships

Do they even exist? This is yet another important question if you are planning on doing business abroad. There are some cultures where work is work and personal life is personal life, and the two don’t really mix. But there are others where part of a good business relationship is having some sort of personal bond as well. Meetups, dinners and all sorts of outside of work activities can be of great importance. And these events usually have their own rituals, which if you are familiar with, you will feel less like an outsider. It’s also important to know if outside of work events are not really a thing in your target country. This way you won’t make awkward attempts of socializing outside of the professional setting.

Tip no 4 – Negotiation styles

Knowing how to properly negotiate is one of the most important skills in the business world. And it’s useful to know that negotiation styles are deeply affected by culture, and are therefore different around the world. Of course you will get the hang of it once you are there, but it certainly helps to learn the basics beforehand.

Tip no 5 – Deal breakers

It might be worth it checking if there are any major no-nos in your target country’s business culture. Things that might seem entirely harmless back home, but are offensive/inappropriate elsewhere. In Turkey, for example, the OK sign (the one where you form a circle with your thumb and forefinger) is considered really offensive. There are many other little gestures like this one, which can get you in awkward situations abroad. But the good news is, that you can easily find out about them before doing business abroad, if you decide to spend some time on researching and preparing before you go!

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At a glance

  • Each country has their own set of etiquette rules, and they usually play an important role in the business world.
  • The more you know about the communication style in a country, the easier it will be for you to find your way in the new surroundings.
  • Find out what kind of outside work relationships are common in your target country, if at all?
  • Knowing how to properly negotiate is one of the most important skills in a different business culture.
  • Check if there are any things that might seem entirely harmless back home, but are offensive or inappropriate elsewhere.

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