Since the pandemic and subsequent rise in remote work, international collaboration between businesses, customers, and clients has increased massively. This means that more people are having to deal with different nationalities in a work setting than ever before.
However, winning customers or business partners from different countries can be harder than working in a context you are familiar with, but it’s every business’s best chance for growth, says Amanda Augustine, careers expert at Lebenslaufapp, which researches all things business, work, and sector-specific job markets that are of interest to the public.
Building on years of experience helping job hunters score their dream position, Augustine draws on her firm's expertise and offers some key advice for successful remote work and international collaborations:
- Establish common goals
- Brush up on cultural differences in etiquette
- Be wary of language barriers
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
- Celebrate international expertise
Let’s explore this key advice and more tips for successful remote work and international collabs in more detail…
International Collaborations: Do's and Don'ts
Tip 1: Put common goals first.
Whether your company is composed of employees of different nationalities or you’re working with foreign consultants, clients ,or partners, it is best to establish mutual goals because they will be the common ground you can build on.
As long as everyone is working to achieve the same goals, differences become secondary and people will generally be happy to bridge gaps or forgive any mishaps in manners from a different culture’s point of view.
Tip 2: Avoid cultural faux pas where you can.
That being said, if you brush up on manners or cultural norms, perhaps even small talk in a different language, that can make a big difference to any co-worker or client with a different nationality to yours.
For example, when you are going out for dinner with a client in a different country, it can avoid a lot of awkwardness if you know, say, whether to tip a waiter or if that is considered rude.
Knowing a different country’s ways also shows you care about the other person. If you are trying to reach a customer base in that country, knowing the basic societal norms will also improve your services or products, which will impress business partners.
Tip 3: Don’t underestimate language barriers.
At a time when tools like Google Translate and ChatGPT are readily available, it’s easy to assume that language barriers are a thing of the past. But, beware! While these AI tools can help with your written communication, they are not perfect.
If possible, ask a native speaker of your target language to review your translated email or other outreach materials first to ensure your translated message has no unintentional meaning that could lead to disgruntlement or plain disregard.
In addition, research appropriate greetings and sign-offs to make sure you are always being polite and professional in your communication.
Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
While it’s beneficial to learn some basics about the culture you are working with in advance, it’s impossible to be aware of every possible issue that could arise due to cultural differences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
In fact, it’s important to establish a safe space for communication with your foreign partners or clients upfront so that everyone feels safe asking questions without judgement or embarrassment. It is much more important to avoid misunderstandings or false understandings than it is to seem perfect at discoursing in the target culture.
There is no shame in admitting that you don’t understand something or aren’t sure what the other person really wants and it can help both sides. In fact, this is something we should also be doing with colleagues, partners and clients within our own culture to optimise communication.
Tip 5: Celebrate differences and stay curious.
Working with different nationalities might mean extra work in some ways, but in others a different culture might just be the right fit for your products or services.
It’s fascinating to learn more about different perspectives on life and business from another culture’s point of view, so make sure you stay curious and pick up as much as you can about the other culture as you can.
Remember, there are always opportunities to learn and improve your own practices or pass on wisdoms of your own.