We compiled these brief country profiles with the help of Country Navigator and the GlobeSmart Profile – an online and mobile platform that prepares executives and assignees on how to work and adapt culturally in over 100 countries. It combines assessments, country content and a range of e-learning modules. Contact us to find out how your organization can benefit from using Country Navigator.
Be alert to differences within Belgian society and culture – North – Flanders, primarily Dutch; South – Wallonia, primarily French; Northeast – primarily German influenced. Print bi-lingual business cards as appropriate.
Recognize that Belgians tend to be careful and conservative; they will take their time before trusting others. Build extra time into your planning.
Maintain a friendly, open attitude. Being confrontational is considered rude.
Work at being subtle rather than overly direct. Directness is sometimes associated with being too simplistic.
Expect to have to deal with many procedures and a lot of paperwork.
Work through issues in a gradual way; communication should be logical and reason-based.
Arrive on time for meetings; arriving late may cause you to be seen as unreliable. Meetings tend to be formal, although first meetings are often more social than business focussed.
Be prepared for lengthy discussions of issues to make sure all alternatives have been considered.
Be acquainted with Belgian history and in particular, the economic achievements of the country. Demonstrate a positive orientation toward Europe.
Try to avoid religious issues or issues related to the tensions between the regions of Belgium; do not criticize the monarchy.
Do not refer to citizens of the USA as ‘American’. People living in Central America also consider themselves American; distinguish between the two by referring to North Americans as norteamericanos.
Learn to operate on Panamanian time. Decisions take longer to make and deadlines may be regarded as mere guidelines.
Remember that business is relationship-based and expect to make several getting-to-know-you visits before negotiating.
Whatever you encounter, it is essential to steer clear of bribery and corruption in Panama – respect your company policy and the laws of your country and of Panama.
Hire a local representative or lawyer to advise you on business deals and help make introductions; people are more likely to work with someone who comes with a personal recommendation.
Dress smartly at all times, even on the hottest days, and pay attention to personal grooming.
Make an effort to learn Spanish, even at the most basic level, but hire an interpreter for important meetings.
Panama is a collectivist society and people cooperate with one another well, so make the most of a team; do not assume somebody is meddling if they offer to help.
Remember that Panamanians are generally risk-averse. Change must be introduced with care and financial risk may take people out of their comfort zone.
Panamanians have a short-term outlook when it comes to money and a long-term approach when it comes to relationships.
People in Tunisia are fairly interdependent. This means that they place great importance on group harmony and cooperation and derive identity from group affiliation. Most Tunisians feel a sense of duty, obligation, and loyalty to ascribed groups. Often this means people from Tunisia require input from others before taking action.
Their decision-making processes can be perceived as lengthy.
Tunisia tend to be rather status-oriented. They are likely to differentiate people based on their titles and positions within an organization. Like other status-driven cultures they prefer not to challenge their superiors or people of higher social rank. Tunisians might even adapt their behavior depending on relative status, as most of them assume that power and authority should be reserved for a few members of a group.
If you have an advanced degree from a prestigious university or have achieved special recognition in your business field, weave this information into your conversation since credentials impress Tunisians.
Tunisians must know and like you to conduct business. Personal relationships are necessary for long-term business.
Similarly to other North African and Muslim cultures, the gender roles in Tunisia follow Islamic tradition. In greetings between men and women, the woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should simply bow his head in acknowledgment.
The communication style in Tunisia is indirect. This means people spend time explaining the context before coming to the point. They tend to avoid asking questions publicly and they express disagreement in subtle ways.
People in Tunisia are quite relationship-focused. They spend ample time building and maintaining strong relationships and place less emphasis on efficiency and timelines. Be prepared that Tunisian may be less likely to focus on getting a task done, if it is at the expense of maintaining harmonious relationships.
The French have influenced Tunisian business practices; so expect both courtesy and a degree of formality. Quite often business is discussed in cafe and restaurants.
Make an effort to speak French. If you are not fluent, you may need to hire an interpreter.
The United Kingdom is considered the home of football/soccer and the country operates with four separate “national” associations (England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland), of which only the English squad qualified for the 2018 World Cup. Below you’ll see a cultural profile of the U.K.
Value privacy. Avoid asking too many personal questions about things such as salary, and background. The British value privacy, at least initially and are less direct than, say, Germans or Spaniards.
Expect humour. There will be humour, even in the workplace. This may be ironic, self-deprecating, sarcastic or cynical.
Prepare to work hard. Expect to work long hours and for work/ leisure boundaries to merge.
Be alert to communication style. The British communication style can be confusing for those used to a more direct approach and often means the opposite to what is implied, for example, ‘With respect’ is a polite way of saying ‘I really don’t agree with you at all’.
Avoid confrontation. The British find confrontation embarrassing and awkward, so encourage harmony when possible.
Expect fair play. The British have a strong sense of fair play so do not appreciate excessive bargaining, changing a deal once agreed upon or going behind a person’s back.
Embrace diversity. Britain is a multicultural society with strict equality laws, although there are still imbalances, from a lack of women at board level to a lack of ethnic minorities represented in popular culture.
Socialise outside work. Expect to mix, mingle, and go out. After work drinking in a local pub is common. Your colleagues will evaluate you as much here as in the work environment.
Expect a relatively informal workplace. The British workplace is becoming increasingly informal, with a flat hierarchical structure. First names are used quickly, dress codes have been relaxed and the manager is seen more as a coach who empowers others to make decisions and implement change.
Be prepared for moderation. The British are conservative. Avoid shouting, which will be viewed with distaste. Avoid boasting and hard selling; this will be viewed with distrust. Do not interpret a detached manner as indifference, the British do tend to be reserved initially.
To learn more about the other 28 cultures represented at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, go back to the main article on this topic.