Personal and Cultural Relations in Business

I. Read and memorize the following words and word-combinations.

offence – образа

to offend – кривдити, ображати

sincere – щирий

friendliness – дружелюбність, доброзичливість

increasingly – більшою мірою

tricky – складний, хитрий

to entertain – приймати

entirely – цілком, повністю

course – блюдо


II. Read the text.

In business people have to deal with all kinds of people. People form an impression of you from the way you speak and behave – not just from the way you do your work. People in different countries have different ideas of what sounds friendly, polite or sincere – and of what sounds rude or unfriendly! Good manners in your culture may be considered bad manners in another. Your body language, gestures and expression may tell people more about you than the words you use.

Nobody actually wants to cause offence but, as business becomes ever more international, it is increasingly easy to get it wrong.

In many European countries handshaking is an automatic gesture. In France good manners require that on arriving at a business meeting a manager shakes hands with everyone present. Handshaking is almost as popular in other countries – including Germany, Belgium and Italy. But Northern Europeans, such as the British and Scandinavians, are not quite so fond of physical demonstrations of friendliness.

In Europe the most common challenge is not the content of the food, but the way you behave as you eat. Some things are just not done. In France it is not good manners to raise tricky questions of business over the main course. Business has its place. Unless you are prepared to eat in silence you have to talk about something.

Italians give similar importance to the whole process of business entertaining. In fact, in Italy the biggest fear, as course after course appears, is that you entirely forget you are there on business. If you have the energy, you can always do the polite thing when the meal finally ends, and offer to pay. Then after a lively discussion you must remember the next polite thing to do – let your hosts pick up the bill.

In Germany, as you walk sadly back to your hotel room, you may wonder why your apparently friendly hosts have not invited you out for the evening. Don’t worry, it is probably nothing personal. Germans do not entertain business people with quite the same enthusiasm as some of their European counterparts.

The German are also notable for the amount of formality they bring to business. As an outsider, it is often difficult to know whether colleagues have been working together for 30 years or have just met in the lift. If you call people by their first names, this can be a little strange. To the Germans, titles are important. Forgetting that someone should be called Herr Doctor or Frau Director might cause serious offence. It is equally offensive to call them by a title they do not possess.

These cultural challenges exist side by side with the problems of doing business in a foreign language. Language, of course, is full of difficulties – disaster may be only a syllable away. But the more you know of the culture of the country you are dealing with, the less likely you are to get into difficulties. It is worth the effort. It might be rather hard to explain that the reason you lost the contact was not the product or the price, but the fact that you offended your hosts in a light-hearted comment. Good manners are admired: they can also make or break the deal.


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