Monday, February 3, 2014

Consider Cultural Differences Before Exporting Your Product

Posted by Luke Stouffer, Intern


If you believe you have a product that can be successfully exported, and you need a primer on exporting know-how, check out the "Pennsylvania International Trade Guide". This useful resource was developed by our sister organization, the WTC Philadelphia, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development.  The website features a number of export tutorials that provide a great overview and practical solutions for making sales around the world. 


My personal favorite tutorial can be found in the Culture section titled “Business Travel Abroad”.  My experience of a semester abroad truly highlighted how significant variances in culture can affect relationships and communication.  The ability to adapt to these variances was the key for me to successfully navigate Europe, and is the key for you to successfully export your product.  In most countries, there is a preference to conduct business in person before concluding a transaction, therefore, as an exporter you should count on traveling abroad at least once.  This tutorial provides a list of necessary travel documents, pre-departure tips, and the effects cultural differences can play on the ultimate success of a business deal.

Essential travel documents include a passport, visa, and vaccination records.  Allow six to eight weeks to acquire these documents.  Another valuable document for your travels is the ATA Carnet, which is a standardized international customs document that allows duty-free temporary admission of sample goods.

Some pre-departure tips include scheduling meetings prior to leaving the United States and familiarizing yourself with the means of transportation, whether public or private, the area offers in order to allot your time effectively.  Another key point to address is the effects language barriers will have on your negotiations.  If you do not already know the local language and do not have the time to learn it, you may want to consider hiring your own translator for your negotiations as opposed to solely relying on the customer’s translator, which can put you at a disadvantage.  Furthermore, you should print business cards in the local language to exchange with your customers. 


Cultural differences can turn a friendly gesture into one that damages a business relationship.  These differences can also be found in negotiating styles, the meanings of colors and numbers, and attitudes towards punctuality among others.  For example, in German culture one is expected to be highly punctual, whereas in Italian culture it is not unusual for someone to be 15 minutes late to a meeting.  Similar differences can be seen in greeting styles (handshake, hug, or kiss) and gift giving norms.  The exchange of gifts is routine for the first business meeting in Japanese culture, but not customary in the United Kingdom.  Read up on cultural differences in travel guides or contact us for information.

Tutorials are available for the following topics:


·         Export Basics
·         Culture
·         Finance
·         Legal
·         Logistics
·         Marketing


 For tutorials as well as an Export Readiness Assessment  visit the website




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