Every culture has its own way of doing things, and doing business is no exception. Some cultures consider business meetings to be more informal and personal chats, where business matters are addressed almost as a last-minute concern. Most of the ‘business meeting’ will be taken up with talk about family, enquiring how the children are getting on and so on.
Other cultures ‘get down to business’ straightaway: if the meeting is for 14:00, then attendees are expected to be there precisely at 14:00, and begin the meeting with no faffing, focusing solely on the business to be discussed.
So far, so obvious. But what about the minutiae, the trivia, the little details that actually are what you need to get right? When you enter the office, do you greet everyone, from secretary to the CEO? Or do you just greet your immediate coworkers? What happens if you say the wrong thing to the wrong person? Should you accept the offer of an after-work drink with coworkers, or is that a one-way ticket to being known as the Office Drunk? And how hard should you work at your job or in the office anyway?
In your home culture, you just know what to say and how to act. But when you’re outside of your home culture, it may not be so obvious how to behave in a way that doesn’t insult the key people in your office – including your boss.
There are loads of examples of people saying and doing the wrong thing, because they just didn’t know any better. You may know of Toby Young’s experience working at the US version of Vanity Fair, and who documented his time in the book How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. Irrespective of your feelings toward Toby Young, the fact is that a lot of his troubles happened because he just didn’t know any better. Who knew Americans and Brits don’t share the same attitudes to drinking (or drugs)?
It’s for these reasons that You Say Tomato is very excited to announce the launch of a new Meetup group, Business Culture Exchange (BCX) – the link will open in a new window. We’ve created this group so that professionals of all backgrounds and from all industries can come together and share stories of working and doing business outside of their home culture, so that others can learn and don’t have to make the same mistakes.
We’d love for you to join us, either virtually by joining the Meetup group or physically at our regular monthly meetings held in London. Please do have a look at the Meetup group page, and by all means contact us if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics to discuss.