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5 tips on working with different nationalities

working with different nationalities

Since the pandemic and subsequent rise in remote work, international collaboration between businesses, customers and clients has massively increased, meaning that more people are dealing with different nationalities in a work setting than ever before. This is why Amanda Augustine, careers expert at Lebenslaufapp decided to share her best advice on working with different nationalities.

5 tips for working with different nationalities

Tip 1: Put common goals first

Whether your company is composed of employees of different nationalities or you’re working with foreign consultants, clients or partners, it is best to establish mutual goals because they will be the common ground you can build on. As long as everyone is working to achieve the same aim, differences become secondary and people will generally be happy to bridge gaps or forgive any mishaps in manners from a different culture’s point of view.

Tip 2: Avoid cultural faux pas where you can

That being said, if you brush up on manners or cultural norms, perhaps even small talk in a different language, that can make a big difference to any co-worker or client with a different nationality to yours. For example, when you are going out for dinner with a client in a different country, it can avoid a lot of awkwardness if you know, say, whether to tip a waiter or if that is considered rude.

Knowing a different country’s ways also shows you care about the other person. If you are trying to reach a customer base in that country, knowing the basic societal norms will also improve your services or products, which will impress business partners.

Tip 3: Don’t underestimate language barriers

At a time when tools like Google Translate and ChatGPT are readily available, it’s easy to assume that language barriers are a thing of the past. But, beware! While these AI tools can help with your written communication, they are not perfect.

When drafting communication, keep your message clear and concise. Avoid using jargon, slang terms or colloquial expressions that may get lost or misconstrued during translation. If possible, ask a native speaker of your target language to review your translated email or other outreach materials first to ensure your translated message has no unintentional meaning that could lead to disgruntlement or plain disregard. In addition,  research appropriate greetings and sign-offs to make sure you are always being polite and professional in your communication.

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to ask questions

While it’s beneficial to learn some basics about the culture you are working with in advance, it’s impossible to be aware of every possible issue that could arise due to cultural differences. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In fact, it’s important to establish a safe space for communication with your foreign partners or clients upfront so that everyone feels safe asking questions without judgement or embarrassment.

It is much more important to avoid misunderstandings or false understandings than it is to seem perfect at discoursing in the target culture. There is no shame in admitting that you don’t understand something or aren’t sure what the other person really wants and it can help both sides. In fact, this is something we should also be doing with colleagues, partners and clients within our own culture to optimise communication.

Tip 5: Celebrate differences and stay curious

Working with different nationalities might mean extra work in some ways, but in others a different culture might just be the right fit for your products or services. It’s fascinating to learn more about different perspectives on life and business from another culture’s point of view, so make sure you stay curious and pick up as much as you can about the other culture as you can. There are always opportunities to learn and improve your own practices or pass on wisdoms of your own.


What should you be considering ahead of sending employees to work abroad?