Spotlight on Europe

Recognising cultural differences that might seem small can make a big difference

Click here to read the cover feature: Beware the culture gap on global growth trail
Click here to read about two marketers who have swapped Britain for Asia

Click here to read Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo regional marketing and innovation director for Africa, give her take on African business culture
Click here to read some insights on working with colleagues in America

While in the UK we might be geographically closer to our French or Italian colleagues than those in Asia, there can still be vast differences between the cultures.

London-based fashion brand Traffic People attributes its international growth to its careful selection of local distributors in each of its foreign markets. And while director Mark Readman claims that the brand’s British identity is its unique selling point and is where its desirability abroad comes from, he and his team have learned to adapt their ways of working to meet the expectations of their international colleagues.

“The Germans are very organised and want to see things well ahead of time, so we will send orders to them before other countries. Our German distributor wants to see the collection before we even show it at the trade show because they want to give their feedback. I don’t think the Spanish would even dream of doing that, as they are much more relaxed,” he explains.

“We’re a relatively small company so we are flexible and, within reason, we work how people want us to. And as the company evolves and grows you get used to how you need to operate to accommodate customers from different countries.”

Scandinavia may only be a short flight from the UK, but significant lifestyle differences must be considered when doing business there. Ella’s Kitchen marketing director Nicole McDonnell explains: “One of the things we found quite hard to deal with when we were trying to develop a project for this area is that they take a month off in the summer. From a business point of view, that means we have to plan further ahead, which we didn’t necessarily do in the first year because this came as a surprise.”

Spanish-born Cristina Diezhandino from Diageo learned to appreciate the Dutch style of doing business while she was based in Amsterdam. “My colleagues in the Netherlands were very straight talking, which to some could seem abrupt and inappropriate to an outsider,” she says.

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