International Corner

Communicating effectively across cultures

Businesspeople in the United States are fortunate English is the common language of international business. However, even between common-language countries, hundreds of differences in the meanings of words and phrases exist. George Bernard Shaw said it best when he referred to the United States and Britain as "two great nations separated by a common language."

For example, for Americans, the verb "to table" means to delay further action. In Britain, the verb means to bring up for immediate action. Differences such as this make communicating effectively across cultures difficult.

Setting the stage

Americans hold a high regard for time and are known to get to the point and move on to new business. However, people from many other countries conduct business differently. They spend a greater amount of time preparing for a meeting and getting to know an individual. So be patient, and continue discussing general topics and socializing until your foreign counterpart initiates the business discussion.

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