One of the major challenges that businesses face in procurement outsourcing is the cultural difference. We have seen countless a plethora of small and important cultural mannerism in international trade. While many of us were just looking at us as cultural lessons from our overseas partners, we have also seen cases where this has led to business failures and lost opportunities, which is perfectly avoided!
Chinese clients are often appreciated by another client from the USA. Because of his body slightly overweight! Phrases like “oh boy, you have a lot of weight” or even nicknames like “weak”. Although all of this made our customer wrong, he never showed him to this partnership because we trained him to anticipate such comments: they are often considered friendly and positive in China. But at the same time, we sometimes ask our suppliers if we think something is coming.
Here is a quick cheat sheet for dealing with cultural uncertainties and differences:
- Expect the unexpected
- Use common sense!
- Perform some research, Google the business and cultural etiquette basics
- Try ‘playing it safe’
- Be tolerant and do not rush to conclusions
- ‘Do as the Romans do’
- Comply, but respect yourself
- Have a trustworthy advisor or global sourcing company who understands both languages & cultures
Challenges in both directions
On the other hand, some American cultural relics in Asia could be a problem. For example, in states, it may be “normal” to use the verb “hate” in our emails. “I hate it when this happens” is a regular phrase anyway. However, “hate” is one of the strongest words in many Asian cultures and should always be avoided.
Even if that wasn’t something we could encourage, we meet an American businessman who was invited to visit a factory in Taiwan on Saturday, where he appeared … wearing shorts! Perhaps it can be considered “natural” in the states, especially in the Silicon Valley technology industry, considering that this was Saturday. However, his Taiwan partner was surprised and asked the Americans to wear real pants.
Asian companies also tend to regard Westerners very differently. Americans and Europeans tend to say what it really means, and this may be surprising and embarrassing to many Asians who are usually indirect and hard to read. “No problem” is a very common response to most consultations in Asia, but it is by no means a guarantee. Be prepared if the ban changes “may or may not be a problem.” These expressions generally indicate the cause of anxiety.
Finally, there are major cultural differences between Europeans and Americans. Take trade fairs: In the United States, European exhibitors and attendees tend to be quiet and ashamed, preferably. They often sit on their chairs and wait until others come and open a conversation. However, Americans often stand by them. They try to randomly attract passersby to their shows and have a conversation, which is generally normal in the United States but is often strange on European occasions.
Online quick searching often helps to understand the cultural norm which is something we always recommend. Also, you take help from any procurement sourcing firms that can help you in sourcing goods from another culturally different country.