British bosses see need for cultural awareness

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The majority of British bosses (97 percent) taking part in a recent survey think that they should make an effort to learn about business etiquette in other countries when travelling abroad, however, over two thirds (68 percent) are embarrassed by their lack of knowledge of other cultures.

Most of the 205 senior managers and directors of major companies based across the United Kingdom who completed the survey (96 percent) rely on the fact that most people in business can speak English, with only 21 percent able to use another language. Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) confess to making a slip-up or having had a bad experience in business etiquette when doing business abroad or with people from overseas.

The research carried out by research by executive communications consultancy,The Aziz Corporation, shows that British business executives are struggling to keep abreast of the complexities of business culture overseas, even though they admit (88 percent) to travelling abroad for business more often than ever before. Just over 80 percent of the respondents state that they often do business with people from other cultures, with 66 per cent regularly travelling abroad on business.

“The fact that top level executives are not sure how to behave when doing business overseas is very worrying for British business,” said Professor Khalid Aziz, Chairman of The Aziz Corporation.

While most businessmen would be confident in visiting Western Europe or the United States, over half admit they would be daunted by the prospect of visiting countries with a perceived difference in business cultures, such as Japan, Asia or the Middle East. Before embarking on a business trip, 74 per cent seek advice on rules or etiquette with which they may not be familiar. Despite this, 52 per cent admit they find themselves ‘playing it by ear’ and taking the lead from those they are meeting or travelling with. 14 per cent claim they have no time or resources to undertake any preparation. Only 13 per cent of British companies offer training to help bridge the cultural gap.

Despite their cultural ignorance, the survey finds that most Britons are keen to provide a welcoming and tolerant atmosphere for overseas visitors. Indeed, the British place more value on the comfort of foreign visitors than they do their own. Nearly 80 percent of respondents believe people from other cultures visiting Britain should have the right to feel comfortable dressing as they would at home, whilst 70 per cent feel that the British should receive the same treatment when abroad themselves.

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