Import / Export Kit For Dummies
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When you're in the import/export business, you need to realize that the process of global negotiations differs from culture to culture in many significant ways. You have to take into account communications issues such as language, gestures, facial expressions. And you also have to consider differing negotiating styles and problem-solving techniques.

  • Language: In spoken and written communication, using the wrong words or incorrect grammar is just one concern. The meaning of the message often depends on the set of circumstances surrounding those words. The danger of misinterpretation of messages requires an understanding of these various contextual factors.

  • Non-verbal communication: Unspoken language is just as important as words or writings. Differences in customs and cultures can cause misinterpretations. You need to be aware of the meanings of gestures, facial expressions, posture, appearance and dress, conversational distance, touch, and eye contact.

  • Time influences and the pace of negotiations: Some cultures like the Americans or Germans are very fast-paced and punctual, while there are many other regions (such as Asia and Latin America) where time is not of the essence.

  • Individualism vs. collectivism: In some societies, people primarily take care of only themselves and their families, while in other societies, the good of the entire group is put ahead of one's individual needs. Understanding these belief systems will affect how you negotiate.

  • Role orderliness and conformity: Some cultures are characterized by a high need for order and conformity. These countries place a great deal of importance on how things are done. Formalities aid in successful negotiations. On the other hand, negotiators from the United States, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland place more emphasis on content than of procedures.

  • Uncertainty orientation: This term refers to the degree people are uncomfortable with ambiguity and a reluctance to take risks. People in countries like Spain, Belgium, Argentina, and Japan tend to proceed cautiously following rules, laws, and regulations. On the other hand, people in countries such as the United States tend to feel comfortable in unstructured situations, are more ready accept change, and attempt to have as few rules as possible.

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John Capela has taught marketing, management, and international business courses at St. Joseph's College in New York for 20 years. He is president of CADE International, which provides consulting and training in international business including importing, exporting, licensing, and foreign investment.

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