10 Ways to Work Effectively Across Cultures

Looking at World

What does it take to work effectively across cultures? In today’s world, many businesspeople and organisations work across different cultures every day. With offices around the world, projects that cross borders or simply a diverse workforce, understanding how to work with people from different backgrounds, regions, countries or continents is becoming an ever more valuable skill.

By following RICS Recruit’s top ten tips for working across cultures, you will be able to approach these interactions a little differently. 

1. Start with yourself

Before you start looking outward, look inward at your own ways of thinking and behaving. It’s important to understand the impact that your preconceptions and subconscious actions have on others. Take time to consider your responses to different situations instead of continuing to act unreflexively.

2. Be objective

Remember that all approaches to work have their own advantages and disadvantages. How can you use a different approach, such as collectivism or a focus on relationships, to the advantage of yourself or others in a different context? Be aware that your usual way of working may not be the best approach.

3. Be willing to adapt

A major challenge in working across cultures is that the world doesn’t stand still. An ability to adjust quickly to new circumstances is vital. Cultures change and adapt as they come into contact with others, and with the impact of ever-evolving technology. Tread carefully when you make assumptions about the people you’re working with and be willing to alter your perceptions based on experience.

4. Stay curious

Every culture views the world from a narrow perspective, seeing things in a certain frame. It is only by staying curious and being willing to learn that we expand our view of the world. A lack of interest can quickly be perceived as disrespectful or dismissive. Ask specific, open-ended questions and pay attention to the answers so you can demonstrate your willingness to learn.

5. When in doubt, ask

If you don’t understand something, or even if you only think you do, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. You may find that your assumptions were incorrect because you weren’t considering the other person’s perspective. For instance, certain words may not translate into other languages just as customs may not translate across cultures.

6. Empathise

It is hard to see the world through other people’s eyes, even in the same cultural setting. However, to collaborate properly, you need to try. Sit down with others to understand their approaches to aspects of business such as communication, decision-making and information sharing. You don’t necessarily need to agree, but it is worthwhile to take the steps towards understanding.

7. Be friendly

Relationship building is important in many cultures, making it critical to be liked and trusted as an individual. Make an effort to get to know people on a personal level. It may sound simple, but avoid being cynical or abrasive. Success in other cultures can often be about no more than being liked.

8. Patience is a virtue

Don’t expect to learn, or produce results, as quickly as you usually would. It is easy to get frustrated when things aren’t moving as fast as we’d like, but this leads to burn-out, ultimately meaning that we retreat back into our own culture as a comfort zone. Give talent more time to shine in new cultural situations.

9. Use your perceptiveness

Without the ability to identify differences and similarities between people, cross-cultural working will fail. Go into these relationships with your eyes open and ready to see the differences between cultures. Without perception, you can’t adapt.

10. Find your resilience

Finally, crossing cultural borders can be exhausting. Being alert the whole time to a different culture takes a lot of concentration and energy. A good sense of humour can help you to get through difficult times and achieve success.

Are you thinking of working abroad? RICS Recruit is global, so see what opportunities we have available around the world.

Back to listing