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Culture Shock

If you don't learn to bridge the gap, you may risk alienating potential business partners.

This story appears in the July 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Did you know that in Japanese, there are 19 different ways to say "no"? In a world increasingly dominated by international, multinational and transnational corporations, plays an important role in . The literature on this subject is large, fascinating and goes far beyond curious questions of international etiquette.

For example, the Japanese eschew direct confrontation, preferring an exchange of information. Russians love combat; their very word for "compromise" is borrowed from another language. Spanish negotiators are individualistic; Koreans are team players. Nigerians prefer the spoken word, Indians the written one. Asian languages are high in context, so you must pay attention to inflections, and what is not said. Latin American cultures are physically demonstrative. And we Americans alienate everyone with our impatience and obsession with getting things done . . . fast, fast, fast!

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