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Common Mistakes of Businessmen

Common Mistakes of Businessmen

January 12, 1999
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Related Topics: Global Business Issues
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Because the United States is physically isolated from most other countries, we often grow up without much international training," says Barbara Pacther, trainer and author based in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. She advises watching out for these five common mistakes.

Not doing your homework before you go abroad.
When traveling you are the visitor, so you are the one who must adapt. Read and study before you go.

Expecting business to be done in the "American Way."
Many cultures don't have the same style of getting right down to business. Often, it's customary to establish a personal relationship before you do business. Take the time to get to know each other before diving in.

Reacting negatively to the customs of another country.
Be careful not to make negative comments about any custom or practice you find different, disagree with or possibly even find offensive. And comparing customs or bragging about elements of U.S. culture is also going to be considered rude.

Taking for granted the person speaking English will always understand you.
Many international business people do speak English very well. However keep in mind that it's not their first language. It may helpful to speak a little more slowly than usual, but not more loudly. Stay away from using slang, buzzwords and jokes—they often don't translate well.

Misinterpreting the nuances of nonverbal communication.
In the U.S., you're taught to look someone directly in the eye when speaking to that person. In some Asian cultures, you look away to show respect. Also, when talking with someone, be aware that your proximity to the person is also dictated by custom. It helps to be mentally prepared for these differences so they won't distract you from listening and understanding.

SOURCE: Barbara Pacther, Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Spring 1996.

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