You can’t expect negotiations with the French to be like negotiations with Americans, and the same holds true for every culture around the world.
British linguist Richard D. Lewis charted communication patterns as well as leadership styles and cultural identities in his book, “When Cultures Collide,” which is now in a third edition. His organization offers classes in cross-cultural communication for clients like Unilever and BMW.
Although cultural generalizations can be overly reductive, Lewis, who speaks 10 languages, insists it can be done fairly. “Determining national characteristics is treading a minefield of inaccurate assessment and surprising exception. There is, however, such a thing as a national norm,” he writes.
Scroll down to see Lewis’ insights on negotiating with people around the world.
AMERICANS lay their cards on the table and resolve disagreements quickly with one or both sides making concessions.
CANADIANS are inclined to seek harmony but are similar to Americans in their directness.
PEOPLE IN THE UK tend to avoid confrontation in an understated, mannered, and humorous style that can be either powerful or inefficient.
GERMANS rely on logic but “tend to amass more evidence and labor their points more than either the British or the French.”
When meeting with THE FRENCH, be prepared for a vigorous, logical debate.
ITALIANS “regard their languages as instruments of eloquence” and take a verbose, flexible approach to negotiations.
Like Italians, SPANISH will “pull out every stop if need be to achieve greater expressiveness.”
Among the Nordic countries, SWEDES often have the most wide-ranging discussions.
FINNS tend to value concision.
Most NORWEGIANSfall somewhere in between Swedes and Finns.
THE SWISS tend to be straightforward, nonaggressive negotiators. They obtain concessions by expressing confidence in the quality and value of their goods and services.
HUNGARIANS value eloquence over logic and are unafraid to talk over each other.
BULGARIANS may take a circuitous approach to negotiations before seeking a mutually beneficial resolution, which will often get screwed up by bureaucracy.
POLES often have a communication style that is “enigmatic, ranging from a matter-of-fact pragmatic style to a wordy, sentimental, romantic approach to any given subject.”
THE DUTCH are focused on facts and figures but “are also great talkers and rarely make final decisions without a long ‘Dutch’ debate, sometimes approaching the danger zone of over-analysis.”
THE CHINESE tend to be more direct than the Japanese and some other East Asians. However, meetings are principally for information gathering, with the real decisions made elsewhere.
People IN HONG KONG negotiate much more briskly to achieve quick results.
THE INDIAN English “excel in ambiguity, and such things as truth and appearances are often subject to negotiation.”
AUSTRALIANS tend to have a loose and frank conversational style.
SINGAPOREANS generally take time to build a relationship, after which they can be shrewd negotiators.
KOREANS tend to be energetic conversationalists who seek to close deals quickly, occasionally stretching the truth.
INDONESIANS tend to be very deferential conversationalists, sometimes to the point of ambiguity.
ISRAELIS tend to proceed logically on most issues but emotionally on some.