8 keys to overcome cultural differences, internationalize and export

Managing multicultural teams, doing business internationally, or working abroad can be daunting challenges. The relationship with time and authority, as well as the decision-making process differ from one country to another, and they form so many risks of disagreeing with their collaborators.

Here are eight keys to working better with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.

1. Identify communication style

Each language reflects the communication style of the culture expressed in it. Thus, Japanese or New Delhi Hindi are two languages ​​with a strong contextual dimension, in which a fairly large proportion of words can be interpreted differently, depending on the circumstances in which they are used.

What works for you may not work with interlocutors from different cultures. An interesting quirk is that in highly contextualized cultures, the more educated and cultured one is, the more able one is to speak and listen with sensitivity to the implicit meaning and the different meanings of the messages. On the contrary, in cultures with low contextualization, the most educated and educated professionals are those who communicate clearly and explicitly.

2. Be courteous

The high-level international manager is one who knows how to adapt, make changes in their behavior and show humility, test the waters before speaking, assume that the other is of good will and invest the time and energy necessary to build quality relationships. With a bit of luck and skill, it is possible to be perceived as polite in Amsterdam, Jakarta, Moscow, Buenos Aires, Paris or Two Harbors.

3. Convince the public with divergent codes

Resist the urge to refuse to answer design questions, or risk sacrificing the interest and respect of those of your listeners who prioritize apps. Instead, take the time to respond appropriately to their questions and provide a few concrete examples to arouse the dwindling attention of the rest of the audience.

4. Assert leadership

In today’s global business environment, it is impossible to simply lead in an egalitarian or hierarchical manner. You have to combine the two and develop the ability to manage across the spectrum of cultures, which often means going back to square one: looking at why local leaders are successful, frequently explaining their management style, even learning how to laugh at oneself when circumstances invite. And fundamentally, that it invites to vary the management styles to motivate and mobilize heterogeneous groups where each one adjusts to the current methods in their place.

5. Discuss the decision mode

You will avoid problems if you organize a dialogue about how to make decisions as soon as possible and if you get everyone to agree on the process. Will the decisions be put to a vote or will they be made by the boss after a team discussion? Is unanimity necessary? Should a deadline be set? What margin will there be after the deadline to change the decision? Later, when important decisions are at stake, go through the process to make sure everyone understands and agrees to it.

6. Cultivate a friendly relational approach

As a general rule, it’s always worth spending time cultivating a relational approach, regardless of the background of the people you work with. This remains true even when the two partners come from work cultures as different as the United States and Germany. Once a friendly relationship has been established, it will be much easier for you to make amends for any cultural missteps.

7. Overcome disagreements

When you work in a more conflictive culture than your own, it can be very risky to try to imitate the style of your interlocutors. Remember that what is considered aggressive in your culture may not be in another. Don’t feel insulted, if you can. Don’t try to copy a clashing style that doesn’t come naturally to you.

8. Reconcile relationships over time

When we start by having a frank discussion about how we are going to manage our time, we prevent the annoyance that could set in over time. Once the common framework has been developed, the group can act according to its team culture instead of letting its members act according to the most natural method of their country. Once the style of the team has been created, whoever leads it will still need to endorse the terms of the agreement and schedule time every six months to review the agreement and possibly update the terms.

Erin Meyer, author of Map of Cultural Differences, Diateino Editions


Erin Meyer is an American essayist and professor of intercultural management at INSEAD in Fontainebleau. In 2021, she was selected as one of the Thinkers50, the most influential business thinkers in the world. Her latest essay is titled “La rule? Without rules. Netflix and the culture of reinvention” (Buchet-Chastel, 2021). These eight tips are taken from her book “The map of cultural differences-8 keys to working internationally”, edited by Diateino, 300 pages, 22 euros.

Leave a Reply