When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Traveling, discovering and adapting to the new ways I believe is a skill. Many of us have been born and raised with family values that we carry all our life – until now. Schools, teachers, and friends shaped us. Also, our history, where we come from, our country and our culture have a very strong impact on who we are today. You may live on the other side of the world but you still feel close to the place and the people that you knew from the beginning. I guess that is great but it must be hard if you are trying to do business in a foreign country and their attitude is different from yours.
I was born in Poland but I was raised in Italy and for over 10 years I’ve been living in the UK. My life is definitely an exciting one but also full of the usual hit and
miss scores. However, it gave me a good understanding of the business etiquette around the world which, I believe, has made me a better PA for my International clients. Culture differences in Culture and customs don’t challenge me – I don’t feel like an outsider. I can understand my clients better. Their ways. Their preferences. Their expectations. Their needs and sometimes this is the winner in key moments of negotiations in a foreign country.
Polish business people are always on time and they expect you to be as well. Time is money. For that reason, you will find that in Poland offices open at 7/8am and they have high expectations of their workforces as they of their business partners. For example; late delivery is considered a bad reflection on a business. There is no empathy of any kind. Poles can be taken as closed and reserve at first but after you establish a relationship and build the trust they will become your loyal associates. They are very direct, too-honest-to-be-polite for politeness sake, so don’t be alarmed or offended. Their honesty translates into a guidance. If you don’t speak Polish, it’s always better to have a backup. In the Polish tongue, sometimes the most polite request may sound like an order because Polish people like to be straight to the point so as not to waste time. Hierarchy and respect are fundamental. No hands in the pocket. Women give hands to Men first and men are allowed to kiss a women’s hands but it is not a must.
More down south, precisely in Italy, business meetings start and finish late. Titles are very important. There are a set of rules that follow a greeting at formal business meetings. Always speak to your superiors using Sir/ Madam. In italian (Lei ) is the polite way. It is a culture of presentation. For Polish people is about modesty, experience, and hard work but for Italians, it is all about titles, food, and style. So the perfect marriage is food and business. If you ever want to impress a potential Italian client take him to the best restaurant in town. Often the most important decisions are made over a beautiful glass of wine. Rule number one: You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it. Style and elegance are the two most important tools to impress. I know it sounds shallow: but it works. If you see a man dressed in a suit from a tailor like Enzo D’Orsi, custom made, immaculate shoes and a perfect haircut, wouldn’t you give him 5 min of your time? Now here is a challenge, Italians are spontaneous and passionate. Which means they can make decisions on the spot, improvise and form ideas out of blue so forget about formality and protocols.
Last but not least is the British way. For English superiors, it is very important to have a good relationship with their staff. They do business the way they play football in my eyes. The core of British values is the big belief in team power. It’s all about collaboration, self- reflection, transparency and mistakes, and opportunities to learn. There is also a social status that creates class distinction. However, they observe differences in speech, behavior, education and sometimes even family name, not from how they dress or where they eat. Business is achieved by logic and planning. The calm and polite way is the only way in England. British are very rational businesspeople and agreements need to be formalized in writing. Direct criticism is prohibited in British business so be warned.
If you have a different background I would love to hear about it! write below in the comment or
email me on: firstname.lastname@example.org