The value of understanding different global business cultures

Sprechen sie Deutsch? Don’t worry, you don’t have to.

However, as an international business you should have an understanding of the different countries, and subsequently cultures, you are working with.

Imagine the difference it would make to a first impression if someone had taken the time to learn some basic greetings in your language, or the common courtesies of introductions within your culture. With minimal time and effort, it gives you the chance to step off on the right foot, and possibly reap lasting rewards within a relationship.

We wanted to highlight for you some areas of variation within cultures, with some key examples:


As we said before, first impressions count! Different countries have different “dances” when it comes to meeting for the first time. Will the other person expect a handshake, or is it more customary to bow? Are business cards normally exchanged, or a gift usually given? Or, in this day and age, how are virtual calls usually started? Five minutes of research and a quick google could save a lot of embarrassment or offense down the line!

Body Language

This can take many different forms: personal space, eye contact, and tone of voice. These nuances will be subtly different across all regions and thinking ahead could be the difference between making a deal or not. It is worthwhile looking into how people conduct themselves wherever your target audience is.

Dietary Requirements

Not just what their favourite food is – although this might help! Cultures, availability, and religious beliefs all play a role in the diet variations across the globe. Having an awareness of certain restrictions or preferences – for example, beef not being commonly eaten in India – could prevent any faux pas and provide a much more positive entertaining experience.

The Working Week

You would be forgiven for thinking that the working week is Monday to Friday. However, this isn’t the case in all countries. For example, Israel and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries actually work Sunday to Thursday. Knowing the differences in days and times between different countries allows you to successfully schedule calls and meetings and avoid disturbing someone on what could be their weekend!

The differences we could list are endless, but why are we talking about this?

A huge part of the IR Global membership is to give and receive referrals. Passing work to another individual, or organisation, requires a certain level of trust and respect – which are both gained by connecting with others on a human level. As with most things in life, the more effort you put in, the more you get out.

Taking the time to understand other cultures and practices could speed up and solidify the forging of these relationships, allowing you to do more business, sooner! For more information on how to handle a referral see our referral protocol hosted in your member area, or speak to your Client Manager.