By Caroline Smith and the Mind Tools Team
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Cross Cultural Business Etiquette

Learning the Ins and Outs of Global Business

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Learn to be successful in an international business environment.

Imagine this: You walk into your local Wal-Mart and see a pool filled with live turtles, cages of live chickens, and an aquarium with live fish. Are you in the pet department? No, you're in the grocery section – these animals are for your dinner!

In Western culture, this would be shocking. You might even see protests, or consumer outrage. But in Eastern cultures, this is typical. Why? Wal-Mart conducted market research before expanding into China, and discovered that people in these cultures don't like food wrapped in plastic. It gives them the impression that the food is old, and they won't buy it.

So, Wal-Mart's solution for the East was the complete opposite of what they do in the West. They decided to sell live animals. As a result, the company has been very successful in Eastern markets.

International Differences

This is one example of just how different our cultures can be. People often talk about how the world is getting "smaller," thanks to travel and technology. But the reality is that, even though we interact with different cultures more than ever, there are still major differences between countries. People often think differently, conduct business differently, and have different expectations. This makes living in a diverse world so interesting. However, it makes doing business a bit challenging – especially if you're not prepared. What's normal in your country might be a serious mistake elsewhere.

Are you about to do business in another country? We'll show you some of the benefits of understanding the business culture – and we'll offer tips on things like dress, conversation, and social customs.

It's important to realize that the following tips are general directions only. Are there exceptions to these rules? Absolutely. Use these tips as guidelines, but always listen to your local adviser whenever you're in a new country.

Business Cultures

When Easterners come to a Western country (like the United Kingdom or the United States) for the first time, they might be shocked at...

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