Sitting between Susan and Jose in Monday meetings and working alongside Adina and Takeshi on the new project give you a perfect overview of cultural differences in the business world. What makes communication effective? How can you speed up the decision-making process? We created a culture guide to help you find the best way of communication.

The decision-making process is very different from country to country. Doing business abroad or effectively managing a multicultural team can be a tough task even for the most experienced professionals. Our guide based on Erin Meyer’s highly praised model  as well as Richard D. Lewis’s insightful book “When Cultures Collide” about leadership styles around the world.
Above you see an infographic about the decision-making process in different countries. According to Erin Meyer’s model, there are diversified decision-making processes ranging from consensual to top-down methods. The more people are involved in the process, the more consensual the system is. We picked up 11 countries and placed them on a scale. Instead of exact figures, our infographic relies on typical behavior and shows patterns.
Then, we set up a guide for each country. You will see the characteristic of your own cultural identity in the left column. In the right column, we collected tips on what you can do to avoid cultural conflicts.


1480462199_nigeriaIf you are a Nigerian:

The company structure is strictly hierarchical. The boss makes decisions, and then shares the details with subordinates. The paternalistic management style is widespread. Leaders were asked by employees for advice on business and personal matters.

If you do business with a Nigerian:

Developing personal relationships is the foundations of making business. You need to take time for chit-chat to get to know your business partners. Be patient and prepare for up to two hours small talk of the first meeting. If you have Nigerian employees, you need to thoroughly explain to them what you require unless the work remains undone.


1480462154_chinaIf you are a Chinese:

Hierarchy and formality are core values. You consider your employees as your family members but you also demand a lot from them. You are flexible, able to adapt to the change and navigate even messy environments. Top-level managers make decisions, middle managers only ensure execution.

If you do business with a Chinese:

The first step toward making a deal is to build a friendship with your Chinese partners. After you spend a lot of time with them, you can earn their trust, and do business. It’s also important to avoid that your Chinese partners feel that they “lose their face”. Instead of questioning others’ opinion or ideas in public, conduct a meeting before the main meeting to ask their opinions. Provide an opportunity for asking questions and sharing opinion anonymously.

Saudi Arabia

1480462180_saudi-arabiaIf you a Saudi Arabian:

You don’t separate your religious belief from your work. Personal relationships are highly valued, and thus you prefer getting to know your business partners before trusting them. You live in a hierarchical system where the highest-ranking person makes decisions.

If you do business with a Saudi Arabian:

Business meetings are less structured, they often don’t start on time and are interrupted by prayers and small talks. In addition, Saudis carry on multiple meetings at the same time. Be patient and don’t try to speed up the decision-making process. Repeat your points since it will be interpreted as meaning you are telling the truth.


1480462151_russiaIf you are a Russian:

You believe in personal relationships more than anything. Making business with people you already know is preferred because trust is essential. Face-to-face meetings are formal, serious gatherings and decisions are made by only the leaders.

If you do business with a Russian:

Business is hierarchical, so find out who are the decision-makers. Be aware that Russians expect you to be punctual even if they are not. Be more elegant than usual because expensive business attire means power in Russia. During a business meeting, Russians consider too much compromise as a sign of weakness.


1480462135_franceIf you are a French:

Many of French managers tend to be autocratic and paternalistic, with an impressive grasp of the many issues facing their company. You like open debate and are willing to confront with others to bring every aspect of the issue on the table.

If you do business with a French:

Formality and politeness mean a lot to the French. Pay more attention to your look and language you use. During a discussion, you will be questioning and interrupting due to the French conversation style. Don’t be offended, this is a sign that your proposal is valuable. Be patient, decisions will be made slowly.

United States

1480105654_united-states-of-americaIf you are an American:

You are assertive, goal and action-oriented. Although you feel team spirit, individual freedom is more important to you and your first interest is in your own career. If you are a leader, you will make decisions alone and quickly.

If you do business with an American:

Be aware that Americans tend to make quick decisions and are willing to change on the fly. They are less confrontational than other Western cultures, and thus you need to express your disagreement with an explanation. Erin Meyer’s advice: tell them you play the “devil’s advocate” and you want to show the other side of the coin.


1480462148_brazilIf you a Brazilian:

You negotiate with people, not companies. You enjoy discussions and use an extensive amount of body language in normal communication. Looking for consensus is crucial for you. Since you are non-confrontational, you won’t say a “no”, rather a “maybe”.

If you deal with a Brazilian:

Building up personal bonds with Brazilian business partners is vital. Give time for them to get to know you. Don’t be surprised when you need to take several business trips to Brazil since verbal communication is preferred to written communication.

United Kingdom

1480462141_united-kingdomIf you are a British:

You consult with your employees before making a decision in order to reach a consensus but you don’t appreciate open conflicts. You value more the team spirit than individual interests. Your communication style can be confusing for your team members since you give instructions in an indirect way. Feedback also arrives as subtle suggestions. .

If you do business with a British:

Your presentation needs to be based on facts and figures. Exaggerating is not effective. Be careful, direct speech can be interpreted as rudeness or aggression. Small talk before business meetings is inevitable and if you have a good sense of humor, you will be awarded.


1480462138_germanyIf you are a German:

You try to create and live in the perfect system. Chain of command is clear and unquestionable for you. Top managers make decisions based on facts and data but only after a dispute, when employees have a voice, they can challenge data and question conclusions.

If you do business with a German:

You need to respect the rules and hierarchy. Reach out to your business partners prior the formal meeting, make sure you can influence their opinions before the decision being made. Build up your proposal on data, facts and figures. After the decision being taken, do not question it.


1480462165_netherlandsIf you are a Dutch:

Flat hierarchy in the business world is natural to you. Managers earn respect due to their competence and achievements. Reaching consensus is mandatory and everyone’s voice is heard in meetings.

If you do business with a Dutch:

Be open and direct in conversations. Don’t be afraid of giving feedback and asking questions. Although everyone is equal and every opinion matters, that doesn’t mean that your proposal will be part of the deal at the end. The reason can be that your arguments might not have been the most convincing.


1480462158_japanIf you are a Japanese:

Although you live in a very formal society where disagreement with a senior professional is a taboo, you can influence the decisions through informal channels. In the famous “ringi” system, high-ranking managers make decisions after employees at all levels discussed the issue. Engagement and involvement levels are high as employees feel that they have a voice in the decision-making.

If you do business with a Japanese:

Try to avoid public confrontation with Japanese counterparts by asking their opinions before the main meeting and giving time to prepare their responses. You can also depersonalize disagreements by asking opinions anonymously at the meeting. Be patient with the long decision-making process.

This post is created by Szandra Karacsony.

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