Tips to Overcome Cross-Cultural Communication in Business

Would you like to learn how to overcome cultural barriers while doing business? Don't miss this article, where you will find practical and useful tips on this interesting topic


Internationalization Content marketing Translation SMBs


We’ll never get tired of pointing out how important communications are when it comes to executing an effective strategy to internationalise your business.

It is essential that your potential customers understand your value proposition in their own language or at least in English -as a starting point- to be able to establish relationships with customers or distributors abroad and sell in other markets.

But sometimes it is not enough to communicate in a specific language, it is also necessary to take into account the specific characteristics of other cultures such as behaviour, communication style, and social norms.

And, when it comes to overcoming cultural barriers in business, many companies fail.

Let’s go over the main cultural differences that can pose a challenge and some guidelines for overcoming the cultural gap.

Facing the challenge of cultural differences

Cultural blending

Working in other markets also often entails dealing with different cultures. In other words, the differences are not limited to the language , but also to the way of relating with others and doing business.

And since an internationalisation project requires a great effort for any company, it is worth bearing cultural differences in mind, because they can be a determining factor in moving forward or stalling a business.

To that end, it is recommended that you get exhaustive information about the cultural context of your target country/market (you can start catching up on our post ‘Cultural Intelligence: The door to open your business to the world?’ where we delve into how to do business in different countries/cultures).

And it’s also important for you to ‘put yourself in the shoes’ of the other party. Try to understand why other cultures follow certain customs or behave differently. We usually look at others from our point of view, that is, we try to give an answer to those other ways of doing things by looking at things only considering our background knowledge. But to truly understand your target audience will be very useful to you.

Another important point to overcome the cultural barrier in business is to know specific aspects of the target market, such as how society is structured and how people communicate. For example, in Asian and Arab countries, a high context, very technical communication is preferred , while in the United States, a low context communication is the general norm, to facilitate the understanding of information.

And what should you do with everything you learn? Take it to your value chain. Take these differences into account so that your business abroad functions as expected by the local client. This means making sure you apply the local criteria to everything, from the content you have to translateto the way you present your ideas when you talk to a potential client, to the punctuality of your deliveries. For example, there are countries ‘accustomed to being late’ where delivering the product a day late can have no impact, and others where that delay can be lethal as your customers start perceiving you as an unreliable supplier.

Respect the way of interpersonal relationships

Interpersonal relationships are basic to both our personal and work lives. If you have to close a deal in person, you should also consider how the locals expect you to behave.

There are countries with neutral cultures , so people tend not to open up to others and look cold, especially in business, such as UK, Japan.

On the other hand, there are also affective cultures , such as the United States and Italy, where people tend to show their feelings openly.

This means you should adapt your communication and learn to interact properly. One tip that may be useful to you is to pay attention to the context, to the signs, to how others behave. What is known as When in Rome, do as the Romans.

Master time zones

This does not only mean knowing the time zones in which the other person is when planning a meeting, for example, online.

Overcoming the cultural barrier in business also means that you have to take into account at what times each culture performs routines. This way, you will be able to determine when an advertising campaign is carried out or when you should not make a call because the other party is already out of the office.

Another important point is to know the importance of time in your target culture. What does this mean? In sequential cultures time is worth more than gold, that is, meetings are a formalism and a commitment. People don’t want you to waste their time. However, in synchronous cultures , people tend to be more flexible with time, and meetings are not a commitment, but a very important part of the negotiation.

Get to know the differences at the local level

Getting involved and learning about the current affairs in each country you do business with, the public holidays, significant dates, market trends , etc. will also allow you to communicate more fluently and perform better at a business level to avoid misunderstandings and detect opportunities.

For example, imagine launching a product the day an entire country is celebrating as a family without paying attention to the media in which you are communicating the launch or when a political crisis breaks out… It can be a disaster.

Gear Translations’ platform allows you to make translations consistent with your brand and business context. Our team of translators works with technological tools to maintain cross-content consistency, use specific vocabulary, and make all translated pieces in any language to feel local, with a close communicational style.

Get your first quote now and start building a solid communication to overcome cultural barriers in business.