Inter-Cultural Business

Business is global and so the staff. Cross-border development became standard in large projects and Offshoring might save another buck. Preconceptions and misunderstandings can jeopardize the entire venture.

Especially in the IT world it is not unusual to work in distributed and international teams. It requires a bit different operational proceedures compared to the work in local teams.

Local teams

In certain times our staff consisted out of 20 different countries. An international team is extremely helpful to communicate with the growing number of customers worldwide. This colourful diversity fostered a better mutual understanding and reduced traditional preconceptions about other cultures. I appreciate this inspiring atmosphere. It fits very well to innovative companies.

It takes a while to read the sometimes different behaviour in certain situations. Most often the difference is just the reflection of a diverse understanding of politeness or respect to superiors or higher seniority. And we don't have to go far. Even Europe offers a broad variety.

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Cross-border teams

When we expanded our presence to other countries, I realized a difference between local multi-national teams in the headquarters and nationality wise more homogeneous teams at our offices abroad. But also when I reported to new owners of the company, all have been based outside Germany, I noticed quite different understandings of a couple of things.


I see significant differences between English and German behaviour patterns. German/French is different as well. Most in common have the Dutch and the Germans where a factual description of a difficult situation is seldom understood as an affront. The opposite is the case in many other countries. And my polite English colleagues won't even let me know that my "rude" statement has made them very "concerned".

But that's wrong! What really happened is that my English colleagues might just believe that they have expressed their "displeasure" load and clearly. But because they did it the English way, which sounds in a one-to-one translation to the German language very polite, the message was not received. And the fact, that I am not adequately react to their "clear" signals will make the situation even more complicated.

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Overseas reporting


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International Partners


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According to the Economist this guide originally was found on an office wall in the European Court of Justice. Indeed, it describes the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth:

What the British say: What the British mean: What others understand:
I hear what you say I disagree and do not want to discuss it further He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect... I think you are an idiot He is listening to me
That's not bad That's good That's poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane He thinks I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest... Do it or be prepared to justify yourself Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally / by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is... That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It doesn't really matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I'll bear it in mind I've forgotten it already They will probably do it
I'm sure it's my fault It's your fault Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree I don't agree at all He's not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options I don't like your idea They have not yet decided

Further comments and other examples »