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Sunday, 13 September 2009

Do you have cultural savvy?

Cultural considerations are a very significant and integral part of the way we do international trade. A key to successful meetings with potential export partners is preparation. Knowing some basic information about the country and the culture you are hoping to enter with your product, is crucial to success. Knowing how to greet your hosts, how to dress, when public holidays are, and what their important cultural values are, will all help to make a visit successful, even if you don’t get the deal you want at first meeting.

Intercultural communication is central to your negotiation strategies. The communication may not always be in the boardroom or the CEO’s office.

The photo above shows a cherry blossom tree usually associated with Japan, in full bloom. This tree is not in Japan as can be seen from the church in the background – it is in fact in Cheviot, North Canterbury, New Zealand and the photo was taken on September 4th.

If this was spring in Japan, you may be invited to share hanami celebrations with your hosts underneath the flowering trees in one of Japan’s many city parks or out in the countryside. Sharing food and drink together may be the key to your export success.

Hanami or blossom viewing lasts from February to April beginning with plum blossom in February, peach blossom in March and cherry blossom in late March or early April. Because Japan extends through 22 degrees of latitude blossom viewing is literally a moveable feast and there is a cherry blossom forecast.

In the larger cities, for example, Kyoto, you may find it very difficult to make hotel bookings or train/airline reservations at cherry blossom time. The first-time exporter to Japan should be aware of the importance of this time to the Japanese and the difficulties of arranging travel and meetings at this time.

Later in April there is also Golden Week which extends into May and includes three public holidays – this is a time to be avoided.

Awareness of and experience with cultural issues is an area which those involved in international trade must all know very well. Cultural knowledge is an area which can be shared so that we learn from one another and don’t put our ’feet in it’. Do you have experiences or tips which you would like to pass on to new exporters? What about sharing them and posting a comment.

1 comment:

Cathy Knight said...

Great post. I am sure many business travellers "put their foot in it" unwittingly through lack of research or appreciation of quite significant cultural differences. We are happy to help if anyone needs advice on appropriate gifts to take, as it can be easy to embarrass or offend with the wrong gifts. You might be interested in our latest blog covering suitable gifts to take to business prospects in Inda


We are always happy to help out.