26/09/2018, by CLAS
Happy European Day of Languages to all of our students, colleagues and local businesses!
As part of the Languages for Business team, I’ve been thinking about how we translate the varied and culturally-steeped language of business networking.
Is it true that there are only two types of people in the world – those who love networking and those who would rather communicate via messenger pigeon than don a nametag and swap business cards?
Networking is often seen as essential for succeeding in business and in the UK, the hallowed ‘networking event’ is an institution of its own! For some reason we love a lanyard, and a geometrically carpet tiled room on the edge of a motorway, not to mention the ever-warm tea urn, the individually wrapped biscuit, the PowerPoint presentation and the business card. Do any of us Brits make the mistaken assumption that this cultural ritual is an international business standard?
As Languages for Business is based in a very, very international department, we end up learning a lot about other cultures not only from the work we do but also from our watercooler conversations. My French colleague, Francoise told me about how her old workplace in France ‘did lunch’. All employees lunched together and it lasted over an hour. This seems a world apart from the British norm of eating a sandwich with one hand whilst sat typing with the other. The British eating at desks may well be a display of dedication to the job. Similarly, the lingering French lunch is seen by some in France as essential to team building and business relations.
Cultural business etiquette training is one of the more unique elements of our project that is often overlooked in its importance to successful trading. You know the phrase “When in Rome”? Have you ever been to Italy and noticed how many Brits start draping jumpers over their shoulders and going for gelato at midnight? AirBnB’s recent ad campaign is called “Live like a Local”, tapping into the pleasure people seek in absorbing and learning about other cultures. If Languages for Business did huge TV ad campaigns, I’d like ours to be “Network like a Local”.
Below are some sample business communication tips for three of our most requested European placement cultures. Please feel free to comment with your own, or better yet, get involved with our work placement scheme and help international business grow!
• Punctuality is very important, aim to arrive 10 minutes early for meetings.
• Formal titles are almost always used to address clients and trading partners and even between employees and employers.
• Business is viewed as a very serious subject so use of humour is not appropriate.
• It is best not to address people by their first names unless invited to do so, instead use ‘Monsieur’, ‘Madame’, ‘Mademoiselle’ and the polite ‘vous’ form.
• Personal lives are kept separate from business matters.
• The hard sell approach is not advisable as French business is typically weary of being pushed into quick decisions.
• Take into account non-working periods when suggesting meeting times, for example, siesta times. Also, be aware that Spain has the highest amount of variable, public holidays in Europe.
• You may hear people referring to taking ‘puentes’ or ‘bridges’, in effect, a four day weekend.
• Negotiations tend to take time so be patient in waiting for decisions and opinions, the Spanish tend not to hurry deals. It is common for people to work on negotiations as extra hours or over lunch/dinner.
• It is common to interrupt another person speaking in a meeting or have several people talking at once, it isn’t considered offensive.
Languages for Business is part of the Enabling Innovation ERDF scheme to support Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire small to medium enterprises expand and grow. We offer support in the form of student projects and placements, providing language and cultural expertise to grow and strengthen international trade. Recent language placements have focused on market research, translation, interpretation and basic language and cultural business etiquette training. To find out more and get involved, please visit our website, or contact Project Co-Ordinator, Jo Gregory.
Written by Jodie Thompson, Administrator, Languages for Business