Working with different cultures in a foreign company requires preparation and cultural awareness to overcome challenges, avoid cultural faux pas, and make connections within your new community. Here are some tips to prevent getting lost in translation:
Be comfortable in your own skin first
You must have a solid understanding of your own culture and customs before diving into working with completely different cultures. That means analyzing your own behavior and the behavior of others similar to you in order to understand what defines a cultural nuance.
If you need a taste of where you’re from to feel at ease in a new place with new people, then don’t hesitate to first make friends within the expat community. However, working with different cultures with a foreign company means you will have to step out of your comfort zone and interact with people unlike yourself.
Do your research
This might be an obvious one, but it has to be said. Before going, conduct some independent research so that you come prepared with a proper understanding of the different customs and how you ought to behave in certain situations. International business requires a truly receptive individual, who is aware of nuances in different cultures.
Familiarize yourself with the proper business traditions, such as bringing gifts as a sign of respect, even if they seem a little strange and far removed from your own practices. The biggest mistake you could make is coming across as disrespectful because of a cultural misunderstanding.
Understand that mistakes are sometimes okay
Even if you’ve done your research, misunderstandings are bound to occur from time to time. The lesson to take away from this is that you must always be prepared to apologize. This by no means indicates a fault by either side, but rather a natural contrast between respective customs and practices.
It’s important to show that you are genuinely excited to be working in a new place and enjoy new experiences with new people. If you enter the workplace with enthusiasm, people will respond kindly to your efforts. It’s only to be expected that diving into an unfamiliar, international experience will push a newcomer out of his comfort zone. The people you work with will be more understanding if you show your interest and efforts are sincere.
Realize no one is wrong
It’s critical that both sides come to a mutual understanding that neither one side is right nor wrong—just different from the other. At the end of the day, everyone strives towards the same goals, to provide for loved ones and to be happy. Drawing this simple comparison, we realize cultures really are more similar than we think. The end goal is the same, we all just have a different means of getting there.
Ask Levo Mentor Mallorie Rosenbluth, Vice President of Client Service at Likeable Media, for her advice on effective management when working with different cultures.