Overcoming Cultural Differences in Business

By Ron Cacioppe & Renée Ralph

Recently a group of Australian government and business delegates attended a formal dinner hosted by the Chinese delegation. A junior Australian representative unwittingly dominated the conversation from the beginning. Half way through dinner, the head of the Chinese delegation brought the conversation to a halt when he banged his fist on the table and stomped off. Everyone was stunned and embarrassed. The translator explained the head of the Chinese delegation would have thought it extremely disrespectful of a junior Australian person to dominate the conversation. He should have been respectful of the older and senior people who were present and listened while they spoke. The purpose of the evening was to strengthen the relationship between Australia and China but this behaviour showed lack of maturity.

In another example, an Australian manager flew to China to close a contract that had been going on for 6 months. A number of delays and bureaucratic barriers caused the negotiations to go on for two weeks. The Chinese managers closely watched the Australian’s frustration grow and used this impatience to obtain more favourable commercial conditions.

Today, Australian business is multinational and multicultural. Australia is increasing its business with China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Korea and yet a growing number of our workers were born in these countries and most Australians have limited understanding of the cultural and historical factors which shape these countries. Australians also can assume that Asian cultures are very similar which would be similar to … Continue reading