If you are considering taking your professional career to the next level with an exciting international employer, there are a few pieces of research and preparation required to address culture and workplace norms. While many countries share common business best practice and similar environments and employee expectations, your new career may create some challenges if you are relocating to a unique and pronounced cultural area that is different from your own.
Northern European Regions
The use of the English language in business is prominent in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland, but countries such as Finland, Sweden and Denmark (while use of English is common) also use Swedish as the secondary language.
From a business culture perspective, Swedish organizations and professionals can be informal and encouraging of a more democratic open, and expressive dialogue, particularly during business negotiations and contract disputes. To establish solid business relaationships in the United Kingdom by contrast, protocols can involve a more structured and conventional approach.
In Scandinavian countries, dialogue in business and social settings can seem blunt, direct and open, while the nuances of professional written and oral communication in Britain and Ireland can be more indirect, as cultural style is more averse to conflict. In that respect, identifying disagreements or dissatisfaction can be more challenging in UK business transactions and environments.
Southern European Regions
There is a tremendous amount of cultural diversity in southern European regions, including Spain, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus. While many international business organizations rely on social networks like Facebook for advertising, southern European SMEs were early adopters of using messaging services through Facebook for internal business communication between staff and management, as well as for client service. Other networks including Tuenti (Spain), Hi5 and Orkut, and Italylink and Fubles which are also used. Turkish businesses interestingly, represent the 4th largest global usage of Facebook, and are 8th in the world for the use of Twitter in business and personal communication.
Punctuality protocols vary by country, and if you are constantly late, consider Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus to be more flexible in terms of employee schedules, culturally. However, countries like Turkey, Croatia, Malta and Slovenia are strict about punctuality or meetings during business hours. Body language interpretation can also vary; for instance, pointing at someone or making an ‘okay’ sign with your hand is considered rude and sarcastic in most southern European regions.
There are a number of excellent resource texts that can help train cultural practice and regional career expectations for executives and professionals. We recommend ‘Culture and Business Etiquette in Europe: Cultural customs and business practices in each of the 49 European countries’ by Frederic Omer de Pryck.