Many professionals err in assuming it is enough to speak a common language when speaking with people from other cultures. However, spoken language is only 30% of communication, according to Denis LeClerc, professor of cross-cultural communication at Thunderbird School of Global Management in Arizona, USA.
How people say things, how they listen, body language and how they perceive authority all influence interactions. Not recognising those vital factors can result in crossed wires and serious miscommunication.
In Latin countries, including Italy and Spain, family is priority — and business is also very relationship-focused. Meaningful small talk is a necessity and something people engage in freely and enjoy, asking in earnest about families and weekend activities.
Asian cultures are the least direct cultures in the world, but the level varies. For example, Indians are seen as much more direct than Indonesians. Open criticism, negative feedback and the word “no” are almost always avoided, because they all are considered highly disrespectful. Maybe is a no.
Asian cultures also tend to be very hierarchical. Authority is highly respected and meetings that straddle hierarchy are not encouraged. In many Asian cultures, criticism or suggestions are generally not voiced outright. In the UK they are expressed, but obliquely when compared with American, German and Scandinavian cultures. For example, “that is an original point of view,” or “could you consider some other options?” all are cloaked British negatives
British English and US English are not the same. To “table” something means to put it aside in the US, and in the UK it means to discuss it at that moment, for example.
These are a few of the differences that are examined in Culture shock: How to speak business anywhere at http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20141006-talk-shock-youre-doing-it-wrong