#GlobalArchitecture: 5 Tips for Communicating Across Cultures

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As we mentioned in our first blog post this month, Writing Around the World, a global marketplace is the norm in 2014. If you are about to journey around the world to win your next project, then be certain to board your flight completely prepared. Do your homework before you leave town, and your journey will be smoother and more successful.

Familiarize yourself with your destination, and your potential client. You’ve likely researched the company, their needs, and what they’re looking for in a design firm. But you should also consider the cultural context of the firm. Learn about the iconic and recent architecture at your destination, and do your best to avoid making any culturally insensitive comments. You never know how you might unintentionally damage a business relationship with an off-handed comment.

If you’re making a presentation to stakeholders, make sure they speak and understand English. If not, arrange for a translator. Choose someone local to you, and rehearse your presentation together. That way, you’ll get your rhythm and flow down to a science before you leave home, and you’ll feel confident about your presentation.

Take into account the differences in business etiquette that you’ll encounter in another country. For example, businessmen in Japan bow in greeting, rather than shake hands, while in China, it’s considered customary to drink heavily when bargaining over a deal. If you can, speak with an expat from your destination county, and ask them for some guidance. If that’s not an option, then scour the Internet for information — you’ll find it.

Keep in mind, though, that just because you’ve done your research, it doesn’t make you an expert on your destination. Let John F. Kennedy’s famous foible “Ich bin ein Berliner,” serve as a warning to you. Unless you’re a native or fluent speaker, address your potential clients in English; most likely, they are fluent speakers.

With new technology, architects and design professionals have gained access to new, global frontiers. Implement these strategies  to put your best foot forward and position your firm to win new, international clients.

Posted by Beth Connolly