- Example 1
Context: Building trust across cultures on the example of Germany and Poland
Description: Mark had a meeting scheduled with a new German customer. Although, Mark was new to the business, he had the chance of continuing his run of good luck after recently making a good impression and bringing external experts to analyse new ways of advertising a product. Hans, his German customer, was flying in to Warsaw from Frankfurt at noon. When Mark arrived at the meeting quarter to 12, he was surprised to see Hans already in the room. What Mark did not think about is that Hans could arrive earlier since he was travelling by car not by plane. Surprised by the situation, Mark immediately took his seat and started this presentation. He did not make a good first impression on Hans, but managed to gain recognition with the presentation of the tailor-made product resulting from ideas captured from collaboration.
Lesson learnt: At meetings with foreign customers, it is important that you not only prepare in the subject and topic of the meeting, but also do your homework regarding their culture. This means that regarding the country your customer comes from they may be expecting different treating. Research on ways of greeting and other body language. Reassure yourself on the common behaviours of that nation. Like in the case of Germans, being direct and punctual will built trust and make a good first impression. It is advised also to learn the hierarchy and understand the role of the meeting attendees in the company they represent.
- Example 2
Context: Culture-specific business meeting behaviour on the example of Germany and the Middle East
Description: The chicken factory in Poland is guesting potential clients who are interested in exporting selected products. On Monday the delegates are from the Middle East, while on Tuesday from Germany. Both delegations are represented by heads of the company and a member of their sales department. After visiting the factory floor, discussions are continued in the conference room. During the first day, it is not the head of the company that does the talking, but their sales representative, while on the second day it is the opposite. Jokes are not part of the second day, when the conversation is more serious, which might be expected from the Saudi, who are used to asking more courtesy questions about family and answering phone calls causing interruption to the meeting. In both situations, during both days, the meeting and following negotiations are successful.
Lesson Learnt: In the Middle East, the person lower in the hierarchy will do the talking at the meeting when attending it with their boss, who is the observer. While in Germany the person that is highest in the hierarchy will participate from the beginning of the conversation until the negotiating. The meeting schedule, including small talk, is also governed by an etiquette. In Germany, jokes should not be a part of formal meetings. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, speaking about minor things, irrelevant to the conversation serve the purpose of getting into the conversation. Also picking up phone calls is not rude, but a custom of combining business and pleasure matters, while the Germans will be stricter and make a line between their professional and private life.