How important is it for businesses selling overseas to understand different cultures?

We’ve always found working in a global commercial environment means knowledge of cultural differences is essential. Understanding the impact such differences can have is key to international business success.

A great example is the meaning of colours.

A colour can have many different meanings in different cultures. Colours can symbolise a rite of passage, differentiate a premium brand from a discount brand, and distinguish between fun and serious.

For example, in Asia the colour red represents celebration, luck, and marriage. In most cases, a Chinese or Indian bride will wear a red dress, unlike white in the west.

In the UK, red is perceived as a symbol of power, authority, government, which is why red is highly visible on mailboxes, buses and telephone booths. Red also symbolises fire in the US and Europe. It is also seen as a symbol of danger (STOP signs) or emergency (fire engines) as it seems to catch people’s attention the best.

Yet in Scandinavia, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, red is associated with strength. It’s probably why red is found in flags of many nations, where it symbolises blood as courage and sacrifice. Even in ancient Rome, a victorious general had his body painted red to match the colour of Mars– the god of war. The symbolism of red in war has been preserved in some parts of Africa where it can also signify illness and death, which is why The Red Cross had to change its symbol from red to green and white in some parts of Africa.

Clearly, it is essential to consider the effect of colour when communicating within different cultures across different borders.

As a global translation and transcreation business, we have been working with business locally, nationally, and internationally for 10years. Our role is to help everyone communicate effectively in the different cultures that comprise the markets in which they operate.

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