I was on a conference call with a client’s communications team a couple of weeks ago. We discussed a variety of assignments that needed to be done and began to discuss deadlines when one of the participants who happened to be in Salt Lake City said, “Excuse me, but am I the only one here who plans to celebrate Thanksgiving with their family?” A few embarrassed voices from Canada said “Oh my, we forgot. We celebrated our Thanksgiving two and a half months ago and we weren’t thinking.”
Add that one to the list of cultural considerations to look out for when communicating to with a global workforce. About four years ago, I posted 10 Tips to Communicate with a Global Workforce. Well, make that 11 tips. The rest of the list is below.
Happy Holidays everyone!
Cultural Differences to Watch Out for in Global Communications
- Colloquialisms, idioms and humor don’t translate well. Avoid them.
- Weights and measures are expressed in metric units in most of the world.
- Currencies vary in different parts of the world. If you’re writing about U.S. dollars, be sure to designate accordingly.
- The seasons are opposite between the north and south equators. Summer in Colorado is ski season in Tasmania.
- In many parts of the worlds, date formats are written with the day first followed by the month and year.
- Make sure your language translation service is familiar with the host country you are targeting. For instance, the Spanish spoken in Mexico is not the same as the Spanish spoken in Chile.
- Your translation service may be familiar with the language spoken in the country you are targeting but likely isn’t familiar with the terms used in your industry in that language. Have an employee in the host country you are targeting check all copy before posting.
- Text translated from English to another language likely will not take up the same amount of space. For instance, English text translated to Spanish is about a third longer.
- Contractions and possessives are confusing in some countries. Choose “cannot” instead of “can’t,” and rewrite sentences to say “the book that belongs to Joe” instead of “Joe’s book.”
- Language differences are just scratching the surface. Cultural differences are far more important.
There is much more to communicating to a global audience than just these tips, but following them, being respectful of cultures and seeking to understand your international audiences will get you headed in the right direction.
What tips would you add?