Congratulations – you’re working internationally! There’s excitement at every turn: new cultures to explore, new business practices, and so much more. While it’s an experience you’ll never forget, there are certainly a few things I wish I knew when I started my first position abroad.
Of course everyone will tell you to be aware of cultural differences, and respect local working customs and traditions. But when it comes to conducting everyday business, there are a few specifics no one usually tells you about. So I figured it was time to put together my list of 7 things to consider before showing up for your first day of work in a new country.
Before we jump in, take note that this list is meant for someone whose role requires them to communicate with a variety of different groups and cultures at once. In that sense, the tips here can be helpful to anyone who’s frequently in touch with folks in multiple regions or markets. It’s also worth mentioning that this is written from the perspective of an American abroad, so some of these may not directly apply if your background is different.
Here are a few things I wish I knew before I started working internationally:
1 – The Word “Doubts:”
The first time I saw “doubts” being used in an email was after I proposed a major marketing campaign. The person emailing me said, “I have doubts about this program.” After some concern, I learned that this person and many others use the word “doubts” when they have questions.
- Tip: Email is often the worst way to communicate. If someone needs more information or needs further explanation, pick up the phone. Even better, set up a video conference.
2 – Your Email Signature:
Keep it simple. No links, no images, no code at all. If you are working with different markets, it does not mean everyone has the same email list or settings configured — even if it’s a coworker at the same company. In short, links, images, etc. often get stuck in spam folders, so don’t use them if possible.
- Tip: Write your signature in Notepad or a similar application that will clear all formatting. Then copy and paste.
3 – Idioms:
An idiom is an expression that has a mostly figurative meaning: It is raining cats and dogs, low hanging fruit, and so on. Business or otherwise, these can be confusing and should be avoided.
- Tip: Don’t use them. 🙂
4 – Date Formatting:
Not everyone uses the same date format. For instance, the US uses Month/Day/Year, while some in Germany uses Year/Month/Day.?
- Tip: Instead of learning each country’s date format, it is best to write dates out: July 13, 2001.
5 – Decimal Points:
The US uses a dot to represent a decimal point while other countries instead use a comma or something else altogether.
- Tip: Check out Oracle’s Decimal and Thousands Separators list.
6 – Time Off:
Vacation practices are not the same across every culture or country. It is important to keep this in mind when setting objectives and schedules.
- Tip: Learn more about vacation across different cultures.
7 – Internet Speed:
Not everyone has the same internet speed as you. This is true in the US and it is true internationally. When sending a file, asking for a file, or anything else that uses a lot of bandwidth, consider that someone may have a much lower speed than you.
- Tip: Visit Speedtest’s Speedtest Global Index.
Though some may seem insignificant, relative to other things you need to consider, I know these will have a big impact on your job and overall success.
What would you add to this list?