Saturday, January 31, 2009

International Thoughts...Understanding Cultural Differences: Get to Know South Asia Better

We asked Murad S. Mirza what he saw as some of the differences between doing business in South Asia and the USA. Here he shares some thoughts and tips. Murad has been educated in major cities around the world including Austrailia, South Asis & the USA

Cultural Differences:

Some Key Elements of Doing Business in South Asia

(Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka)

1. Relationships come first and business comes second, therefore, try to know more about the culture of your host before making the sales pitch.

A useful guide can be the framework developed by Geert Hofstede's framework for assessing culture

2. Yes is never a Yes and No is never a No in terms of professional commitments. It all depends on how the relationship proceeds between business partners

3. Trust gained through frequent interactions and knowing each other on a personal level goes further than a written agreement for doing business

4. Never forget that you are in a highly sensitive political region, therefore, your comments will be closely scrutinized for any evidence of biasness, e.g., Talk Pakistan in Pakistan and India in India

5. Stay away from giving opinions on religion, politics or the virtues of democracy, especially, during casual discussions

6. Don't be surprised if someone wants to know more about your family and highlight aspects of their own since it is normally an attempt to create a personal bond

7. Staring is not considered good manners since it is generally viewed as challenging authority. Less eye contact is generally preferred, especially, with senior management

8. Never refuse acts of hospitality on part of the hosts, e.g., dinner at a famous restaurant

9. Exchanging gifts is part of the culture and generally not considered a bribe

10.Time moves slowly and patience will be fully tested in terms of getting things done, especially, in the presence of cumbersome rules and regulations

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