12 Dec Not all Business Territories are Created Equal – Part 1

As international trade has become crucial for business success, companies are increasingly spreading their operations across borders. Rapid growth of global emerging markets means that there is increased contact among business partners from different cultures. Regardless of the industry, understanding international cultural differences in business not only builds international competency, but it also enables one to acquire a competitive advantage as business territories operate differently.

Here is a look at business territories in Northern Europe, Southern Europe and China:

Northern Europe 


  • Northern Europe is characterized by countries such as Iceland, Ireland, the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland.
  • All the countries have embraced the use of English.
  • Punctuality is seen as a sign of reliability, and business interactions are generally kept at a very professional level across the region.
  • Differences in respect of hierarchy and formality of meetings exist. For example, the business environment in Sweden can be observed as quite informal while emphasizing democratic and open dialogue during negotiations. Whereas in the UK, it is important to follow established protocol when building and maintaining business relationships.
  • For those venturing into the Scandinavian market, they should expect a direct and open communication style.


Southern Europe 


  • Southern European countries include Croatia, Macedonia, Cyprus, Malta, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey.
  • One will encounter a fascinating blend of cultures in Southern Europe. However, there are similarities in climate and geography, which affect the region’s culture and how business is conducted.
  • For a successful business engagement, it is important to understand the need for building personal business relationships and maintaining strong links with business partners, as well as contacting the right individuals within the company. Therefore, being loyal, respectful and trustworthy will facilitate business operations in a big way.
  • People here are renowned for being open and warm when it comes to dealing with foreign business operatives.
  • In this region, family ties and tradition are very important.
  • Personal networks will play a very crucial role towards the success of a business.
  • Punctuality is highly regarded; however, one might get away with it in Spain, Greece and Italy.
  • In Turkey, punctuality is part of the country’s culture and everyone is expected to observe that.




China is a major player in global business. It is a large producer as well as consumer. Many firms across the world import and sell goods which have originated from China. With the Chinese market being so influential, it is important to have some basic understanding of the business culture in China.

  • Building business relationships in China is one of the biggest challenges facing Western firms.
  • The country is vast and the main challenge lies in understanding and building relationship with the various subcultures.
  • For those new to operating in the Chinese market, it is imperative that they behave politely, patiently and modestly.
  • Establishing a strong business foundation in China requires that one establishes face-to-face relationships with their business partners.
  • For the Chinese, friendship and trust comes before business.


Doing the homework on target territories prior to entering the market will ensure an effective and ‘localized’ business approach leading to maximum business advantage. Appreciating and understanding cultural and professional differences will maximize an individual’s potential, enhance the reputation and profile of the company as well as provide the firm with a chance to ensure that their globalization strategy is a success!

Check Not all Business Territories are Created Equal – Part 2 to learn business etiquette and key cultural insights into three other high potential markets: America, India and the Middle East.

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