Living and working in another country can be an exciting and welcome opportunity for many business professionals as it offers them a unique chance to put into practice their skills and expertise of doing business, yet in a completely different setting. However, this opportunity also means stepping out of your comfort zone and being confronted with entirely different people and their specific perceptions about things like time, hierarchy, ways of doing business and communication styles. Living and working in another country should not be taken lightly or seen as an extended break.
Whether you are going to another country for business or pleasure, the fact remains that the way you present yourself will reflect your country as a whole. For example, the behaviour of many Britons abroad has resulted in many negative perceptions of British nationals by other countries around the world which impacts business relationships.
A recent article suggested that one of the most irritating habits of Britons abroad seems to be their cultural insensitivity. There have been numerous cases of horror stories of the antics of Britons abroad, most of them of people on holiday who drink too much. Recently, a Latvian MP branded British tourists as ‘savages’ since the Latvian capital, Riga, became the top destination for British stag parties. Unruly Britons seem to like relieving themselves on Riga’s Freedom Monument, which in Latvia is considered an important symbol of the freedom, independence and sovereignty of the country, honouring soldiers killed while fighting for independence between1918-20.
Cultural insensitivities are not always purely on a social scale like this example. Mishaps also occur at the other end of the spectrum, with business professionals on international assignments also guilty of failing to do their research concerning the local culture and traditions of their target country and therefore find themselves in trouble.
One of the latest high-profile cases of cultural insensitivity by business professionals was that of the British couple who were sentenced to jail and fined £200 in March 2010 for allegedly drinking alcohol and kissing in public while dining in a trendy restaurant in Dubai. Although the male defendant, marketing executive Ayman Najafi, is of Muslim background, he has lived in the UK his entire life and was not aware of Dubai’s strict rules. Both were held on bail for a month and were unable to leave Dubai as their passports were taken away.
This is an interesting example since Dubai has a very modern atmosphere compared to many other Arabic cities, with state-of-the-art architecture and a fairly progressive approach to doing business. Yet the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is one of seven members, is still quite a conservative state. Many Western expatriates therefore wrongly assume that by being Western the rules do not apply to them, or they are simply unaware of the strict protocol they are required to follow in public.
Cross cultural awareness training courses like Living and Working in the UAE can provide companies and their employees with all the information necessary to make their transition and business experience abroad as smooth and successful as possible. By giving employees an awareness of how to do business in a different culture and an understanding of the wider social and cultural traditions, companies can make sure that their employees do not jeopardise business deals or even their own careers by their lack of cultural sensitivity and awareness.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2010