When it comes to business, there is more than one important facet to creating a successful and productive company. Most importantly, is the part culture plays. Think about it. Culture, defined, is an integrated system of learned behavior patterns that are characteristic of the members of any given society, and culture is thus shared through various groups of shared interests. Essentially, it’s the things people share together; language, social cues, behaviors, religions, and even various attitudes and manners that are accepted. In order to produce a successful business globally, you must learn these special aspects of culture, otherwise, you risk not only embarrassing yourself, but loosing an important deal.
In Qatar’s Education City, Audis and Range Rovers fill the student parking lots leaving any reminders of the vast desert far behind. Unlike the schools of India and China, the common areas of Education City look as though they have been plucked from U.S. campuses with a large complex that spans over 5 square miles and houses 8 Western Universities, one of them for Georgetown. Education City was founded in 2001 by the government of Qatar. Some analysts say that the universities which are serving student bodies that are dominated by foreigners, seem like bubbles cut off from Gulf culture and society.” Many professors are worried that such a type of education “will create generations of Emiratis or Qataris who are very well educated but are disconnected from their country’s history, culture and language.”
The high cost of education usually associated with such name brand schools as the ones found in Education City are not an issue for local citizens. The government of Qatar grants the majority of its citizens full scholarships regardless of financial need while foreign students pay costs similar to the corresponding U.S. schools. “We do realize that the whole operation in Education City is funded by Qatar, so we want to maintain our standards without dropping to a low percentage of Qataris or having no link to society,” said Gerd Nonneman, dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar. The objective is clear: More Qataris in Qatari Schools ! Hopefully, though, there will also be a continued influx of international students so that any discussion and debate on campus will be global rather than local.
Many companies believe that business is business around the world. But while globalization is a fact of life, cultural convergence is not. Recognizing cultural differences, it helps to tailor business approaches to individual cultures. One concrete influence on culture is language. There has been an increase in value of individuals who are bilingual or multilingual. However, often overlooked is the language used within a company’s international corporate office. Should the Japanese employees of a U.S. company with an office in Tokyo, speak in Japanese or English? Increasingly, international companies mandate an English-only policy. According to Tsedal Neeley, a professor at Harvard Business School, companies that don’t adopt English as a standard for their entire organization will, at some point, “experience some form of bottleneck…It depends on what the company does, but if you’ll have members in different countries needing to collaborate — whether it’s to integrate technology platforms or cater to customers worldwide — it will become more important that even middle managers and employees with international assignments use a common language in order to interface with others.
If you order “Bamboo Chicken” in Belize (South America), what do you get?