As technology increases our reach, many of us find a significant part of our daily interaction involves transacting across borders and cultures. Yet we rarely consider the impact of these cross-cultural interactions. While cultural barriers are not always apparent (i.e. differences in language, script or dress) – they are most certainly felt. And their “invisibility” often means that we bump (or crash) into them when we least expect it.
Recently, a colleague of mine was emailed a document on “Japanese Business Etiquette” before her meeting with
executives visiting from Japan. We chuckled over the list that covered a range of topics, including how to present and receive a business card, the appropriate ways to discuss your family, what to wear and personal habits. It was almost offensive to receive such a document as a “normal and respectful professional” because a receipt of such a list suggested otherwise! Despite the unintended offense, this type of document is a good way to forewarn parties of cultural differences and norms ahead of negotiations.
However, not all cross-cultural interactions and negotiations come from a business-to-business environment where a prescriptive list is provided. Some may arise as components of e-Commerce or through our communication on social networks. People can be offended and transactions, halted. In fact, cross-generational interactions can involve similar challenges often impacting the workforce.