Roy’s six deadly Inter-cultural mistakes

  1. Roy wore jeans and a t-shirt (albeit a plain one) for a first-time meeting with his new banker.
  2. The banker was a woman, and Roy, true to his Mediterranean culture, complimented her on her stylish suit.
  3. Roy wrote e-mails and was frustrated that he did not receive an answer on the same day so the next morning he wrote another e-mail with a comment “did you have a chance to see my e-mail from yesterday?”
  4. Roy was 10 minutes late to a meeting with potential investors.
  5. Roy expected a signed & sealed contract to be drawn up after a first-time meeting.
  6. And most offensive – Roy called his future business partner during the weekend, at a time when the partner was out of town on a weekend vacation with his family (They are no longer partners).

Roy is a very successful businessman in his country and wanted to expand his real estate holdings in Europe, specifically Germany. Coming from a task oriented culture, none of the above would have been perceived as “faux pas,” but rather as a legitimate method of building relationships, negotiating, and conducting business transactions.

From my experience as an Cross-Cultural trainer, I have encountered numerous errors costing my clients time, money and resources due to lack of awareness of cross cultural differences.

Multicultural competence means being able to connect, collaborate and adapt where cultural differences or inconsistencies may be an issue. Indeed, in today’s global business environment, it is imperative to develop skill sets that appreciate the cultural diversities brought to the table.

Roy failed to appreciate how German culture, beliefs and assumptions differ from his own, causing him to behave in ways that may have been perceived as offensive or inappropriate by his colleagues.  Germany’s monochronic sensibility, which maintains “there is a time and place for everything,” conflicted with Roy’s polychronic culture, thus making his call to his colleague during off hours inappropriate and annoying. Not surprisingly, he also failed to appreciate the slower pace in electronic communication, as well as the nuances of building a successful relationship with his banker.

Roy could have avoided these pitfalls and so can you.