What I’ve learned from Doing Business Globally: We Are Not the Same

Before I started working at Monster Worldwide, I spent five years working for a British magazine and job board.

It took me years to notice that the British corporate culture is really quite different from American. While I quickly learned that, “Are you alright”? is a normal greeting, and what a “hen do” is, some of the subtleties of not showing strong emotions or using exclamation points in emails took me quite a bit longer.

While I had thought rewriting marketing materials, switching pounds to dollars and removing extraneous “u’s” was the most work, toning down my normal mode of communication was something I only really grasped in my last six months of employment.

At Monster, I was given a wonderful client list, some clients and colleagues in India, and a lot to learn. One of my friends from college is of Indian decent and I asked him for advice. He told me to treat people in India like everyone else. This was both excellent and not particularly useful advice. While everyone wants to be treated equally, there are many cultural differences between the U.S. and other countries. Here are a few of the things that I have learned:

· To be aware of the time difference in India and figure out who works U.S. hours and who works India hours.

· Use WhatsApp and avoid needlessly running up people’s phone bills.

· Understand that if someone only goes to India one month out of the year, they may only take calls from their clients or not be working at all, and respect their time outside of the U.S.

· I’ve also added all Indian holidays to my iCal and try to note them, learn about them, and again, be respectful of when people want to work.

Some Indian business people feel that saying a straight out “no” is rude. But being in sales, sometimes I would much prefer to hear a direct no that to keep pursuing clients who will not be ready to say yes for a while. I’ve tried to create spaces and relationships where people feel comfortable saying no. I, myself, say no all the time to things I can’t do, and have much room for improvement in this area. If saying it can be considered rude, as the sales person, it seems it would be doubly rude coming from me.

I thought that I had come from a long line of thrifty negotiators; I realized I really hadn’t seen anything yet. My Indian clients are the best negotiators I have ever met. While I’m inclined to give everyone the best deal I’m allowed, I’ve learned that’s not an ideal starting position when someone wants to barter.

If I talk to people enough, it usually gets easier for me to understand their accent. And I need to realize that if I have trouble understanding someone that they may be having trouble understanding me as well and that I should slow down and follow every call with details in writing.

While I thought that I was fairly worldly, my work experiences over the past six years have shown me how far I have to go.

I truly consider it a gift when a busy CEO or decision maker of any culture takes the time to explain what is actually going on with his or her business so that I can make appropriate recommendations. Real business conversations are more valuable to me than quick sales without an understanding of what my clients are trying to achieve.

I have a debt of gratitude toward those that have been willing to work with me while I’ve been getting out of the gate, and am excited to keep improving and learning more about international business practices.

Note: I work for Monster Worldwide. Views expressed are my own and do not reflect my employer’s. Follow me on Twitter.