Getting Business Done: The Cultural Impact
Living in a different country goes beyond needing a language that is not one’s first one. It requires observing the way people behave, so we can identify what are the similarities and differences between two or more cultures. Consequently, in order to properly fit in, embracing new habits and letting go of some are also necessary. It is a process that takes time and that can be quite challenging, but it is very important for people who need to navigate different cultures.
Meetings are one of the most relevant aspects of the life of a Babson student. From day one, we have meetings to attend and that is part of our routine. In my experience this last spring semester as the CEO of a consulting firm for my Corporate Finance class, I had not only to attend meetings, but also to plan and lead them. Meetings would start right on time, and we would talk about the class and the goal of the meeting right away.
Working in Brazil has shown me a different way of group meetings, though. In my experience so far, meetings have never started on time. Sometimes the meetings are 5 to 10 minutes late. – It is important to emphasize that my experience does not reflect the culture of all Brazilian companies, as I do not know their routines. Even so, Brazilian people, in general, are more lenient with not being on time. – Besides the delay, meetings often start with light conversations about personal life, news of the day, or something about the company that might not be related to the meeting if the equipment for the meeting is being set up.
However, that does not mean they do not get business done or that they are unprofessional. On the contrary, they do accomplish their goals; they just do it differently. Behaving professionally has common characteristics among cultures as well as different ones. That is why being culturally aware is important not only to avoid judgments, but also to allow one to not feel uncomfortable when dealing with culturally unusual situations. By being knowledgeable and respectful of other cultures, it is possible to get business done in many different ways.