Want to grow your business abroad? Expanding into the UK is a natural move to make, as the culture there is somewhat similar to what is found in America. If you are about to do this, however, know that there are also significant cultural differences as well.
Robert Stefanowski knows this all too well, as he has spent many years teaching and doing business in Britain.
He had a period of adjustment when he had to figure out how businesspeople here communicated with one another. By doing this, he learned how to avoid ending up embarrassing himself in business environments.
If you can do the same, you’ll retain and get deals others lose out on by being rude when they don’t mean to be.
Remember the following things if you want your UK business expansion to be a success.
1) Communication is frequently understated
British and Americans share a common language, but it is often used in a different way across the pond. If you aren’t on your toes, you can be caught off-guard by an innocuous miscommunication.
For example, directives are issued in a very different way in the UK. In the USA, people generally say what they mean, with little nuance to leave people in doubt of what has just been said.
Here, they’ll understate things that are generally considered to be universal truths. However, there is a risk that you might not catch the importance of what they just said, and discount something they expect you to do without delay.
If you are confused in any way by anything your British business partner tells you, immediately request clarification to avoid a regrettable incident.
2) Be polite (even when you think you don’t need to be)
In American business, it is easy to speak your mind without having to apologize, as free speech is a highly guarded aspect of our culture.
Needless to say, things are different in the UK, as people conduct themselves in a polite and deferential manner wherever possible.
When they need to say something impactful, they use softening words to buffer any potential harshness. When in the UK, it is paramount to think before you say anything remotely controversial.
If you respect everyone you interact with and apologize immediately when you say something offensive, you’ll be fine during your business dealings here.
3) Embrace British pub culture, even if you don’t drink
In Britain, going to the pub after a hard day’s work isn’t something people do on occasion, it is a cherished aspect of the local culture. As such, don’t be surprised if your business partners invite you out for pints not long after meeting you.
Unlike in the USA, the regular consumption of alcoholic beverages isn’t seen as a weakness of moral character, so don’t be alarmed if they down more beers in an evening than you drink in the run of a week.
Don’t feel compelled to do the same – turning up at the pub is all you have to do, and you won’t be seen as socially inept if you opt to have non-alcoholic drinks instead.