LivingTravelCultural tips for doing business in England

Cultural tips for doing business in England

A few years ago, I lived in England for six months. It was an excellent experience, and I love to come back and visit whenever I can. With world-class business centers like London, it’s no wonder that many business travelers end up going to England as well.

To help business travelers avoid cultural issues when traveling, I interviewed cultural expert Gayle Cotton. Ms. Cotton is the author of the best-selling book, Say Anything to Anyone, Anywhere: 5 Keys to Successful Cross-cultural Communication. Ms. Cotton is also a prominent speaker and internationally recognized authority on cross-cultural communication. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. Ms. Cotton has appeared on many television shows, including NBC News, PBS, Good Morning America, PM Magazine, PM Northwest, and Pacific Report.

Ms. Cotton was happy to share tips on how to help business travelers avoid potential cultural issues when traveling to England.

What advice do you have for business travelers heading to England?

  • Do not assume that all words and phrases in British English mean the same as words and phrases in North America, Australia, or other English-speaking countries. Many of the words and phrases in British English have different or even opposite meanings! The spelling can also be different.
  • British English pronounces consonants more clearly than many other English-speaking countries. Avoid speaking too fast or slurring words or it may seem unprofessional
  • Make an effort to speak in complete sentences. The English generally find the American habit of disappearing mid-sentence irritating.
  • Try to keep your voice low and moderate at all times.
  • The most independent and professional approaches are the most welcome and respected.
  • English entrepreneurs are generally interested in long-term relationships rather than quick deals.
  • Once they decide they want to do business with you, English can be frank, direct, and you probably won’t hesitate to speak your mind. However, before this transition occurs, it is important to allow them time to make an assessment of you, your proposal and company.
  • During initial meetings, facial expressions are kept to a minimum and consequently it can be difficult to perceive what the other participants are thinking.
  • Keep in mind in your dealings that the English are “masters of understatement.” Direct questions can lead to evasive answers.
  • Aggressive sales techniques such as “hard selling” or disparaging another company’s product or service will not be welcomed.
  • Humor is often an important part of business discussions in England, and having a repertoire of jokes and anecdotes can be an asset. Also, people who are good at telling jokes and stories should make the most of these skills.
  • Characteristics of British humor include not stating the obvious, as well as implying the opposite of what is being said. Consequently, paying attention to what is not often said or done is a necessary part of appreciating this style of humor.
  • Be careful: English people can use humor, especially irony or sarcasm, as a weapon to ridicule an opponent or show disagreement or even contempt.
  • Although English company culture is intensely hierarchical, teamwork is still important, especially in influencing decisions.
  • Note that the English will not hesitate to say ‘no’.
  • Refrain from giving unsolicited praise, as it is not necessarily welcome.

What is important to know about the decision-making process?

  • In decision-making, the English tend to seek guidance from established laws and norms, rather than their own personal experiences or feelings. In addition, company policy is the main authority for entrepreneurs at all levels of the organization.
  • Objective facts and evidence are the only legitimate sources of truth; feelings are often irrelevant.
  • Again, precedent plays an important factor in decision making. That is, your proposal has a better chance if it conforms to the way things have been done in the past.
  • Generally, a consensus is reached before the final decision is presented to the individual with the highest power.
  • Decision making tends to be a slow and deliberate process. Running or pushing the decision-making process is often counterproductive.

Any advice for women?

  • Foreign women will have little difficulty doing business in Britain.
  • Do not insult yourself if someone calls you love, dear or dear. These are commonly used and are not considered rude.
  • It is correct to cross your legs at the ankles, not at the knees.

Any advice on gestures?

  • During initial meetings, facial expressions are kept to a minimum and consequently it can be difficult to perceive what the other participants are thinking.
  • The British are not aggressive and generally do not show affection in public.
  • Hugging, kissing and touching is generally reserved for family members and very close friends.
  • The British like a certain amount of personal space. Don’t stand too close to another person or put your arm around someone’s shoulder.
  • Staring is considered rude.

What are some good suggestions for conversation starters?

  • Positive experiences in England and other trips.
  • Its immediate surroundings, which includes nature, architecture, food, environment, climate, etc.
  • Soccer, polo and other sports.
  • English history and any current events
  • The English love animals, especially dogs. Family pets are always a good topic.

What are some conversation starters to avoid?

  • The English like to talk about current events, however avoid getting into political discussions, particularly in relation to Scotland or Northern Ireland.
  • Don’t be the first to bring up the subject of the royal family.
  • Refrain from inquiring about a person’s occupation, birthplace, religion, or other intrusive personal questions.
  • Discussing your “family tree” is frowned upon here. Also, avoid mentioning the British class system in conversation.
  • The reputation of British food has improved significantly, so avoid stereotypical comments about its mediocrity.

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