The cultural climate is rapidly changing for Australians doing business with their overseas counterparts. This trend is opening up new educational and life changing experiences for everyone from wine-makers to engineers and marketers of kangaroo meat and farm products.
As a winemaker, standing around at a Parisian wine show, trying to catch up on what people are saying is a waste of time and money, if you can't speak French. So, to gain market place position you need to learn French, There is no competitive edge in an Australian joining the queue with others tendering for the construction of a cinema complex in Berlin, if you can't communicate with the local engineers. It is much more efficient to have a member of your team, or yourself, who is able to speak German. And not just words that you have learnt to translate on an App, but a serious command of German so that you can communicate intelligently with your German colleagues and be taken seriously.
A government representative negotiating a delicate issue in Jakarta, is more comfortable, more diplomatically effective, if he or she can speak Indonesian and understand the locals without having to rely on the interpretation of other officials.
That is why there is such a strong corporate education trend to learn the languages of Australia's overseas trading customer countries. The vast, new emerging markets in China beckon, but the local Chinese merchants want to hear about your product or service in their own language of Mandarin.
If you are interested in increasing your market to include overseas counterparts, contact VLLC to get the ball rolling with being able to communicate in their language.
In recent years, the Middle East has exploded as a business destination. The growth of cities such as Dubai and Doha has made them hubs for international travellers, and with this, the cities have become central points for doing business. Doing business in the Middle East is not too challenging, and Arab countries are extremely open to doing international business. Having an understanding of business etiquette and a grasp of the Arabic language can and will make a tremendous difference to doing business in the region.
For thousands of years the Middle East has been a trading hub. It has been on trade routes for gems, spices and in times gone by, slaves as far back as man can remember. The Arab world is extremely civilised and appreciation of this with simple good manners, hellos and goodbyes makes all the difference.
Calendar and Weekends. One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to the Arab world make is the working week. Only 3 countries, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia work what the western world call a working week. All other countries use Friday and Saturday as their weekend. Don’t head into the Middle East hoping to get a meeting on a Friday as chances are it won’t happen. Secondly, there is an overlap in calendars used, while Arab countries tend to use the Gregorian calendar for business and many other activities, the Islamic Lunar Calendar is an influence when it comes to religious activity. Familiarising oneself with the likes of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha for example will be tremendously beneficial.
Arabs and language. As with most nations, Arabs are extremely proud of their language. Even the most basic understanding of the Arabic language can be helpful, but a more fluent understanding will demonstrate deep respect among those one is doing business with. Very often there are almost formal or expected greetings and responses such as As-salaam alaykum when initially meeting, being traditionally followed by Wa alaykum as-salaam.
Like most languages, Arabic has a formal and informal form. Having a good grasp of the language will lower barriers between parties fairly quickly, once it is known you speak Arabic. Very often you will be politely asked to be less formal. However, should a person senior to your guest enter the meeting, conversation may revert to formal out of respect, should the person be unfamiliar.
A control of the Arabic language will grow ones understanding of the people and culture. A deep respect for Allah is prominent, and this may take some getting used to, but politeness and gentleness will make things easier. With the understanding of the Arabic language and culture settling in to the ways of the region will become less difficult.
Time and hard bargains. Time, it seems, in the Arab world, moves at a slower pace. It would not be unusual for a meeting to begin an hour or an hour and half late, there is no rush. Interruptions to meetings will not be uncommon, and meetings may extend a great deal longer than planned. Arabs are, and always have been traders. They have all the time in the world to get the deal they want. It may be a little uncomfortable, and you may feel a little pressured to negotiate, so don’t say you have not been warned. Having an understanding of Arabic will make negotiations easier and may result on more favourable terms. The value of speaking Arabic will pay off for anyone doing business in the Middle East, and once a deal has been struck strong bonds will remain.
Arabic people are genuine, honest and very welcoming. Treated with respect in their own language you will win not only superb business partners, but very welcome friends.
These blogs are about learning a foreign language and utilising that skill to forward your professional path.