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Working with People from Other Cultures

Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:26pm | by Guest Contributor

Any time you find yourself working with new colleagues there are likely to be pros and cons associated with the situation.  Even if you speak the same language you may not be able to communicate effectively.  But when it comes to succeeding in a diversified, multinational company that employs a staff from around the world, you might have more trouble than normal.  However, you will also enjoy the opportunity to expand your horizons, learn about a new culture, and create business relationships that span the globe (something that could come in handy down the road).  So if you’re nervous about working with foreigners, here are just a few ways to counteract any potential problems while embracing the many benefits of branching out.

For starters, you’re going to have to face your biggest hurdle: the language barrier.  The problem is not only speaking the same language; it’s being on the same page.  As you may know from personal experience, it’s easy for things to get lost in translation.  For this reason it behooves you to use simple, concise language that is easy to interpret, utilizing concepts that carry across cultural lines.  This will not only make life easier for the person who is speaking to you in a second language; it will also ensure that you gain a better understanding of how to deal with a diverse group of coworkers so that everyone can communicate effectively.  And as for difficulty wading through accents, eventually you’ll simply develop an ear for them. If you’re the one attempting to converse in a non-native language, then your best bet is to immerse yourself so that you can begin to learn the cultural nuances that shape the dialect.

Another difficulty is the time difference.  Now, you may be working in the same office with individuals that come from other cultures, in which case this is a moot point.  But if your interactions consist of phone calls and video conferencing at times when one party is normally sleeping it could present a host of problems.  The only thing you can really do about this is to come prepared.  Since you may be taking these meetings at home during off hours, plan ahead to make sure you have access to all the information you might need.

Now that you’ve dealt with some of the major headaches of inter-cultural communication, it’s time to start enjoying the many benefits of working with people from other cultures.  For starters, interactions with people from different backgrounds will open up your world view and give you ideas that will make you a better employee and a better person.  It will also allow you the opportunity to network, as well as the potential to see new places, experience new cultures, and make lifelong friends in other countries.  In short, it will change the way you interface not only with other people, but with the world at large.

There are certainly other ways to get a business contacts in other countries, if that’s your goal; you can join a forum, a people directory, or a networking site.  But if you’re already working with people in other countries, there’s no reason not to make the extra effort to stay connected and really form business relationships that will benefit everyone involved.  The global economy practically demands it!

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