All three of the above are things companies hiring overseas staff look for but there is one thing, one box that needs to be checked because of a special ingredient that makes a person to be perfect. That one thing is language.
Are you the future employee that is wanted to work overseas? Do you know what employers are looking for in potential international employees? The world has become a global village, Donald Trump may not like it but the facts speak for themselves and for a company to succeed globally it needs to have employees globally. As an employee looking to work overseas for an international company there are a few things a company is looking for.
Industry Knowledge and competence. To work overseas for an international company the employer will expect you to know the industry, company and your role very well. A level of experience, even for junior positions is essential. Knowing little about the company or not having enough experience or knowledge can be something that denies you an overseas role. Experience matters and always will. However, being a graduate you may well stand a good chance even without experience in a field related to your qualification if you have a special ingredient.
Confidence. As an employee of an international company working away from head office, you may well find yourself in a smaller office or even as part of only a small team and in some cases alone. International employers will look for confidence and someone who can adapt to change well. Showing initiative has always been something employers look for and internationally it is no different.
Country Knowledge. Knowing the company, its products and services as well as your role are vital. It is equally important to have knowledge about the country. Trading rules and mechanisms, culture, tradition and etiquette are essential. Having an understanding of geography, transport systems and social as well as business elements of the country are something a company is looking for in an employee. Working overseas an employee is expected to succeed and build a good reputation, having country knowledge will give you the edge. Again there is still a special ingredient missing.
All three of the above are things companies hiring overseas staff look for but there is one thing, one box that needs to be checked because of a special ingredient that makes a person to be perfect. That one thing is language.
Speaking the language. Being able to converse in the language of the country is the number one thing an employer looks for when selecting overseas staff to work in international offices. Demonstrating the capacity to do the work, having confidence, showing initiative and have knowledge of the country are all well and good but having language makes all the difference. It has been proven over many centuries that speaking the language of the locals secures business deals. Having a language and being able to converse about a company, its products and services in the native language creates trust. From trust, relationships are formed and from this business success is found. Learning a language can make all the difference, as an employee you become more valuable and with a language, you stand out and become less of a risk to send overseas or be employed overseas.
Spanish is a widely spoken language worldwide and Spain of course is no exception. Yes, there is a generation that now speaks English as much and as well as they do Spanish, but this fact does not mean Spanish is not essential when doing business in Spain. It is perhaps because of the fact that a younger generation speaks English that to get business done in Spain the Spanish language is more important, with conversing with senior or older management, in fact speaking Spanish is a sign of respect.
There is also another reason why speaking Spanish for business in Spain is important, and it all has to do with relationships. Business relationships in Spain are not made electronically or on the phone, business relationships are made face to face, and more importantly, outside the work environment. For this to work it is clear that speaking Spanish is an advantage and opens up the door to successful business.
Culture plays a big part in business in Spain, and speaking the language allows for this to be understood. Discussing contracts with your Spanish counterpart in Spanish allows culture to be embraced and also makes room for the finer details of any negotiations to be better understood. Spaniards are very proud of their products and are always more cautious when exploring products or services from outside Spanish borders. Speaking Spanish eases the tension and allows for confidence in you, the person, your company, and your products or services to be developed and absorbed.
Business meetings tend to be fairly formal in Spain, and the personal relationship built up over time, externally to any meeting, is very much respected. Knowing how to pronounce a person’s name is very important as the heritage of the family name is something most Spaniards are proud of and hold dear. There are informal and formal terms used in the Spanish language and knowing these will influence the direction of any business meeting. It is recommended that at first meetings, the formal tenses and greetings are used until such point as first names and less formal language is used by the host.
Doing business in Spain, in Spanish, makes business easier. One needs to understand that business meetings very often discuss decisions that have already been made and opinions are not often discussed, so despite speaking Spanish, your opinion, no matter how eloquently presented, may mean very little or nothing. The use of the Spanish language when doing business in Spain is much more about building up a relationship. The Spanish are people who are very much about appearance perception rather than actualities, and the strength of the business relationship relies very much on the personal relationship.
Speaking and understanding Spanish makes comprehending contracts a great deal easier, and the language once spoken, can lead to long and satisfying relationships, both professionally and personally, as in Spain the two go hand in hand.
Germany is a country best known for its forests, rivers and mountain ranges. The country is one of the largest in Europe and has a thriving tourist industry. With its castles, large houses and the mountainous countryside being major attractions, and many within only a short drive or train journey from major cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin.
For the average tourist, equipped with a map, or accompanied by a guide with the ever-handy German phrase book and the fact many Germans speak very good English, a vacation is easy to undertake. But for the tourist or businessperson who wants to head off the beaten track, and explore some of the hidden gems of Germany, having more than a phrase book is important. There is a great deal more to see in Germany than one could well imagine, and by having a better grasp of the language, these places and more can soon be opened up, making a German leisure visit something special.
With language, the weird and wonderful can be found and explored, and the conventional, seen how Germans see them. Take for example one of the strangest museums in the world, the German Food Additives Museum just outside Hamburg. For the non-German speaker this museum would be impossible to visit, as everything in the museum and about the museum, is in German. It is a fascinating small museum, and a real one of a kind, but only by speaking German can you really visit and understand this amazing place.
It is not just specialist museums that are “off limits” to those who cannot speak German, some historical sites make little sense, and again because of the predominant use of German make then seem pointless to visit. One such place is the ruined airport not far from Berlin, where Claus von Stauffenberg could have ended World War II, but didn’t, when his assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler failed. Not only is the airport a fascinating part of fairly recent history, but it is truly a unique place that tantalises curiosity to visit.
Without an understanding of the German language, so many small but interesting places to visit automatically fail to make a tourist agenda. Germany has many hidden gems. Even foods become more interesting, and what was once a seemingly bland and uninviting menu, becomes something you want to at least try. Being able to converse with the owner of a small back street café or restaurant can lead to some wonderful culinary adventures, coffee becomes more than black stuff in a cup and becomes a discussion about life with a local, and the meal becomes something enjoyable as you discuss specialities of the house with the host or chef.
An understanding of the German language turns a German vacation, or day away from a German business trip, into something quite special and creates some amazing memories that without language could never even begin to form.
Germany is a country that has an image of professionalism, precise engineering and an almost regimental way of doing things. After World War II Germany had to rebuild itself as a nation and part of what has become an almost perfectionist way of working was what saw the country grow and emerge from a lost war victorious.
Today the strict and precise way of doing things is still important and appreciating this will certainly go a long way in ensuring your business success in the powerhouse of Europe.
Language plays an important part when doing business in Germany, and despite the fact that many Germans speak English or another language, doing business well in Germany is made considerably better, easier and a great deal more successful, when German is spoken. The technicalities of business, is where having a grasp of the German language is more than just useful, but very much a necessity. Getting into the finer details of a transaction, understanding plans or a contract in German can be lost in translation when being explained in a language other than the native. German is a very descriptive language, and in contracts especially ambiguities can be easily avoided whereas there may not be a word or phrase that describes it well in any other language.
There is, as always, a degree of respect that is gained by speaking German when doing business in Germany, and that respect is taken further by taking careful note of being on time.
- Punctuality is on par with understanding the language, along with a number of other aspects, that can be easily avoided or better understood.
- Mannerisms and hyperbole, saying things that sound too good to be true are important to understand and when doing business, Germans prefer to stick to the facts, focus on the job at hand, and get the job done to the best of or better than their ability.
Germans are very direct communicators, and by speaking and using the language, this becomes almost natural for the non-native speaker who will soon adjust to the way of doing things. A sense of pride is inherent in Germans, and a strict hierarchy of things is clear to see in the way Germans do business. Small talk is not common when doing business in Germany, but proper and correct introductions in the mother German language go a long way in setting the tone.
When it comes to choosing a partner, a German company will invariably choose a company or representative that speaks German. Not only does this make communication easier, but it allows for any discussions to expand beyond the initial contracts because the people being worked with, receive a generally higher level of respect than non-German speakers.
Don’t just assume that your German counterpart will speak English, more than likely he or she will, but do your best to converse in German – German people are very understanding and will help you find the right words because they can see you making an attempt.
For decades the world only ever saw Russia and the USSR through the eyes of Bond, James Bond and everything was secretive, under the table and monitored by KGB spies only to be blown up and destroyed at the end. Thankfully, Ian Fleming’s James Bond is pure fiction and the books and the movies are not at all like Russia today, in fact, Russia today, is perhaps one of the easiest places to do business, and when done right, can be extremely good business.
There is just a little etiquette to follow if you want to succeed in business in Russia and there are really only 5 things to remember to get things right. Each of these can be improved upon by having a grasp of the Russian Language that goes is beyond “Dasvidaniya”.
Russians are proud of their country, and everyone you come across will ask you about Russian and there is only one right answer and that is that you Love Russia. Being able to say why you love Russia and expand upon “Ya loolyou Rossiyu”, will serve you in good stead. Not only do the Russians love their country, but they are also proud of their language, both spoken and written. It is a simple and common courtesy to have any documentation you might have, produced in English (or your native language) and in Russian. Again, having a grasp of Russian could even give you the ability to discuss the documents and be the difference between sealing a deal, or not.
It is rather unique to Russian society that men are addressed by their name, and the name of their father. There is a certain pride in this, and this minor heads up is what could win you any deal, first meetings are always utilising the fairly formal name, and father’s name, until things get a little relaxed. Again, being able to speak Russian will help you considerably here, with pronunciation, and of course making conversation, even asking about the man’s father.
In Russia, being just on time as James Bond always is, sometimes is not enough. On time is late by Russian standards and being early is considered being on time. As a foreigner, when your Russian client arrives late, you must not get frustrated. It is a strange way of working, but somewhere in the psyche there is some sense. Arrive early, it will leave you more relaxed, and of course, if you speak even some small talk in Russian, may even open the chance of increased opportunity.
It is also good to look like a million dollars. Since the fall of communism, status is a big part of Russian society, it is not necessarily about a persons' ego but more just looking the part. Sloppy dressing is considered close to an insult, but a smart suit, with a crisp short and stylish tie that reflect in well-polished shoes, will give you the edge and show you mean business. And then, when least expected, you open your mouth and speak Russian, you really cannot lose!
Doing business in Russia is not difficult and it is made easier when you speak the language!
Indonesia is a growing market and is the largest economy in South East Asia, the country is the 16th largest economy in the world and by 2030, economists believe it will be the 7th largest or bigger still. Steady growth in the current uncertain economic times is a rarity, and Indonesia seems to just shrug things off.
Doing business in Indonesia is not without its challenges. Corruption and a lack of transparency count against the country, but overall, Indonesia is a great place to do business. The country is very tech savvy and has a good understanding of world markets as well as domestic trade. Logistics in the country are a challenge as the infrastructure the country needs to sustain its growth and a growing population is somewhat underdeveloped. These obstacles to doing business can be overcome, however, to really get to grips and work with what is available being able to converse in Indonesian does give any business person an upper hand. Often, some simple negotiation in a native language yields results, and with Indonesia it is no different to anywhere else in the world. Politeness and a little tolerance, combined with some mutual respect by speaking Indonesian, go a long way.
Business in Indonesia is not rushed and is very different to the way in which business is conducted in western countries. Culture and respect both play an important part of business proceedings and the fact that things take their time, is very much out of respect for those who are being dealt with. Relaxed is perhaps the best word that could define any business meeting in Indonesia, with a great deal of time spent learning to understand the person one is doing business with. The interpersonal part of doing business in Indonesia is key, and because of its importance, being able to converse in the language speaks volumes about one's intent and respect, elevating a foreigner several steps very quickly in the negotiations.
In Indonesian business, “yes” is not always “yes”. The people of Indonesia are very indirect in their communication and what may actually be thought of as yes or “it’s a deal” may be easily lost in translation. Slowing things down and not pushing for deadlines is the key to business success in Indonesia, and whilst some things must have a deadline, do not push it, it may very well be met but by becoming pushy will almost ensure it will not. Having some command of the Indonesian language does mean you stand a better chance of actually knowing if the yes means yes, it does allow you to have a little more control over the business process, and does ensure you don’t get lost in the conversation around the table.
Indonesia is a terrific place to do business, and if it is well researched, and a plan is made to ensure most eventualities are covered, it can be very successful. However, no strategy is ever going to play out 100% as planned but having the language under control does increase the odds of greater success.
France is a country the English love to hate, it is a country that many believe is the birthplace of romance and a place where people eat frogs legs and know the difference between Champagne and fizzy wine. These are just side stories to a country that is an important political player in Europe, a master player on the world wine market and a country that is home to just shy of 67 million people of which 15% are immigrants, imports or just plain foreigners.
French is the considered the language of love, and those who take the time to learn the language will soon discover that it is much richer than “Je t’adore” and “Bonsoir mademoiselle”. The French language is officially a Romance language, not romance as is love but as in Romanic, but perhaps it is all about love in a way. The language itself stems from something that sounds far less romantic, evolving from Vulgar Latin between the sixth and ninth centuries and some 800 million people now speak language around the world.
French is a popular language to learn, but what about the country of France, what is its history? Anyone visiting France will instantly realise that the French are passionate, beyond merely patriotic, about their country and they have every right to be so. Being able to speak French will enable you to get a little deeper into French history on your next visit. But in short, France has a wonderful, colourful, chequered and at times fascinating past.
The country we call France can be tracked back to the Iron Age and the land mass that makes up the country from North to South was once the bulk of what Rome called Gaul. The Romans noted three languages, dialects or linguistic groups in the region: the Gauls, the Aquitani, and the Belgae. In the first thousand years BC France was colonised by the Greeks, Romans and Carthaginians and Southern Gaul was annexed. The Gallic wars eventually saw France (Gaul) become integrated into the then Roman Emperor and there are still many reminders of this, none more better than Pont du Gard, the world famous roman aqueduct still operational today.
Over time, what is now France, saw dynasties and kings and queens come and go with notable historical figures rising up through a series of conflicts known better as the Hundred Year’s war. One such well-known name was a young peasant girl who became a national heroine. Joan of Arc was one of many who throughout the history of France is still held high today.
The French Revolution in the 1800s saw the monarchy thrown out with the country governed as a republic until Napoleon Bonaparte declared France the “French Empire”. He was soon defeated in the Napoleonic wars and France went back and forth between Monarchy and Republic for many years until 1870.
The First World War was marked by many deaths and France became a battlefield and grave for many young men. Fighting alongside the United Kingdom, Russia, Italy and the Allies against Germany saw France become one of the saddest places on earth in a war that was said to be the war to end all wars. But, it was not to be.
France was invaded and conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940 only to be liberated after 4 long, painful years of war. The people of France never gave up; the French resistance to this day are still considered some of the bravest, most valiant people who fought in World War II. Upon liberation, France and her people became major players on the world stage, peacekeepers, and became permanent members of the UN Security Council and NATO, immediately after the war. Today France is strong economically, culturally and politically with its military forces active against the war on terror that is taking place today. France is important and her people know it.
France is a country rich in history, far richer than a simple article or blog post can define. This history can be uncovered by visiting France and then uncovered more by speaking the wonderful, so-called, language of love, French.
If you are considering doing business with France there are a few things to consider, according to www.austrade.gov.au. France is a member of the European Union (EU) and is subject to EU trade regulatory requirements.
The most important characteristic of French business culture is the emphasis on courtesy and formality. Titles (Dr, Prof. etc.) should be used both in correspondence and in face-to-face meetings, business contacts are not normally addressed on a first name basis.
Your style of dress is also very important in the business world. For men, office and corporate wear is formal consisting of suit and tie and fashionable semi-conservative wear is considered appropriate for women. French companies are interested in long-term partnerships and once established they need to be maintained with regular visits to France that will ensure continued collaboration. Although some executives speak English it is courteous to check beforehand and as always, it show respect for your business counterpart of you are able to communicate in their language. It is also prudent not to schedule business meetings in August (summer vacation) or workdays adjacent to public holidays.
I found another really interesting blog written by Melanie Jones from the International Business Times and she has given 8 Cultural Cues that make (or break) a deal. I think that she has created a fabulous list so I have included them below (but for a full explanation or her points I will also add the link to her article at the end of this blog.)
Tip One: Respect the Language: In much of the European Union, English is the language used for international business dealings. In France however, the situation is rather different. The French are extremely proud of their language, and there may not be another culture that so regards the language it speaks as such a symbol of the country itself. Almost everyone in the French business world speaks English fluently, but refusing even to make an attempt to learn the language will be an instant mark against you. If you don't have the time to begin learning the language, or if this is a one-time trip, at least make an effort to study some basic French phrases, and apologize for your lack of fluency early on. Your international business colleagues will appreciate the effort, and the conversation will then likely switch to English or a hybrid of the two languages.
Tip Two: Know the French Business Model: When first doing business in France, the formality of the proceedings and almost obsessive adhesion to hierarchy and protocol can seem stuffy, cold or unnecessarily strict. It is important to recognize however, that business dealings are really operating on two levels.
Tip Three: Put an Emphasis on Being Formal and Professional. French businessmen and women like to keep things formal to start, adhering to that strict distinction between the personal and private on the one hand and the public and professional on the other. Begin by shaking hands, and note that the French typically shake quicker and less firmly than Americans. When speaking at the start of a meeting, stick to the vous form (the professional you) until invited to use the tu form of speech (the informal you). Avoid first names, instead using their surname with Monsieur or Madame before it. French people often introduce themselves surname first, so pay close attention when you're shaking hands.
Tip Four: Follow Logic. The French conversation style, especially in business, puts an emphasis on being direct and questioning. The French are most receptive to rational presentations that are well organized and presented, and will respect a low-key manner (avoid yelling, hand-waving or hyperbole) used to clearly highlight benefits.
Tip Five: It doesn't hurt to be eloquent. Coupled with this stress on logic is, of course, an equal emphasis on charisma. How you argue a position in France is often as important as the argument itself, and serves as a clear indicator that you take the work seriously and are capable of nuanced thought. Eloquence is seen as a cardinal virtue in France, and French managers have been known to rise to their positions, and run their businesses, in part through the force of their rhetoric. Long-term relationships are a stable of French business dealing, and getting to know a person is done n part through reading how they present themselves and their ideas.
Tip Six: Appreciate the Food, Enjoy the Lunch Hours. The only thing perhaps more lauded in France than its language is the country's cuisine, and the French take their food very seriously. Since this is also an incredibly enjoyable and indulgent part of French culture, it's best to dive into this area whole-heartedly, and with great appreciation for the delicacies in store. Business lunches are often very long, running two hours or more, and may not even involve discussing business at all. Instead, they are often used as a way to build the close relationships that sustain business ties, or perhaps to discuss the finer points of an argument or contract detail. Lunches are a big affair, so be sure to come hungry. Most consist of an appetizer, a main meal, a cheese course and dessert, with wine and coffee to drink.
Tip Seven: Adjust to Physical Cues. As with every culture, the French respond to certain physical cues that indicate respect or competence. Maintaining direct eye contact while speaking for example, makes for a good first impression, and correct posture and keeping your hands out of your pockets are musts. Avoid gum chewing, snapping your fingers, or slapping your palm with your fist, as these habits are considered vulgar. Also, never make an okay sign with your fingers, as in France this symbol means nothing or zero. To show approval, simply raise your thumb.
Tip Eight: Be prepared for Cultural Exchange. French people, especially those in business, couple a deep pride in their own country with an abiding curiosity about other cultures, and respect someone who can speak about their country's culture, history and politics in an educated and eloquent way. Personal ideology is also welcome in discussions, and the French appreciation for individualism carries through to a sincere admiration for freedom of opinion and knowledge of the intricacies of one's beliefs, allowing for impassioned discussion that will strengthen, not limit, a professional relationship with your French colleagues. Discussion of French cultural topics is also welcomed and appreciated, though any criticism of Napoleon is greatly discouraged.
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.