Celine Rogue has a nice article over at Web Worker Daily today entitled “Web Working in a Borderless World”, which covers special challenges facing international teams. Having worked with people from all over the world myself, I agree with her ideas on paying attention to cultural differences (she cites the expectation of Fillipino collegues to have some chit chat time at the beginning of a meeting) and being sensitive to time zone.
Both are absolutely true, but the idea about the importance of culture is an especially good one. Accidentally offending someone by not paying attention to cultural nuances is an easy trap to fall into. Plus, you can’t exactly ask someone “So, how does someone from your culture conduct business?” without looking like an idiot. So how do you figure that out? It’s a tough one. Pay careful attention to how people are behaving and if you notice something that is unusual to you, the culprit might be a cultural difference.
As I’ve written before, you have to be careful about not using slang in those situations too. We Americans are typically more guilty of this than anyone else. Also, just because everybody is speaking English doesn’t mean everybody is speaking the same English. The concept of time, when certain things are supposed to be happening in the scop of your project or issue, need particular attention.