What is Cultural Awareness?

In business, we rely on spoken and written language. But we also rely on information imparted non-verbally. (What is your personal interpretation of an ‘O’ formed with thumb and index finger? )

Let's start with a real life advertising campaign that went wrong. Some time ago, a medium-sized American company decided to "go Europe". They set up European headquarters in London. From there, they reckoned they would conquer the continent. They did not try to get acquainted with the local customs but decided to hold working breakfast meetings around 7 a.m. in Germany. They were also convinced that every European spoke and understood American English.

The sales force, consisting of three American men, went directly to potential clients without scheduling an appointment and asked to see the head of the company - immediately. They addressed the people by their first names. On Fridays, they wore jeans and sweaters when visiting the potential clients.

To their dismay the working breakfasts did not work. People were not thrilled to be visited by them without prior notice. And the fact that they spoke nothing but their native tongue did not endear them to the local customers either. After a while the company decided to withdraw from Europe.

Let's look at another example. Every time a new car model is introduced, a new name needs to be found. Ford decided to call one of their models "Probe". This model did not sell too well in Germany. Why? Because this word means "test" or "something that is not finished yet" and even “sample” in German. “Nova” is another name used for a car. It did not sell well in Spanish speaking countries. “No va” means “it does not go”.

To be successful means to know with whom you deal! You should also be aware of the cultural background. It is not a prerequisite to be fluent in a foreign language but it shows respect to learn at least a few words. (According to a recent study, only 1 in 3 Europeans speaks English. And only 1 in 10 speaks more than one foreign language). Do you know that polls show that after the year 2008, more people will be speaking Spanish as their mother tongue than English? Where? In the United States of America!

In order to be successful, you need to know your target groups. When dealing with different nationalities there are even more aspects to consider. Criticizing in a language that is not your own is very difficult. So is understanding why you might be criticized.

The English of computer experts is not the same as the English of bankers. Are you familiar with social structures in the target country? They may not be the ones you are accustomed to.

This is where CCN comes in. We know the nationalities and their backgrounds. You tell us where you want to go. We give you the foundations to build on.

Fortunately (or unfortunately), there are no set rules. It depends on your individual requirements how the training will go. For some, a short seminar will suffice. It might include topics like "How to address people" and "Is a smile an indicator of acceptance". But the seminar might need to be much more detailed and include topics such as 'The legal side of national language documentation for your product".

Political correctness is another important issue. Are PC values different in the target country? Probably yes!

It goes without saying that confidentiality is part of CCN's corporate ethic. Our instructors have first hand experience in living and working in different countries.

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