Cultural Conflicts in International Business Negotiations

One day, a delegation from Dubai visited Company H. Mr. L, the chief representative of the company, received them. As the negotiation went on, Mr. L felt confused and bored because the Arabs asked for a break every hour. Then they went to toilet to wash their hands and faces. When they came back, they knelt down to pray. As there was no towel in the toilet, the Arabs prayed with wet hands and faces. Mr. L found himself in a dilemma, because he did not know whether he should withdraw from the scene or not.

When it was time for lunch, the Arabs were treated to a rich dinner. When everyone was seated, the waitress started introducing the different dishes in English to the Arab visitors. They all looked surprised and pleased at the variety. When the waitress mentioned some specially cooked pork, the smiles disappeared from all those visitors' face and all of them looked angry. No one said a word. Quickly they stood up and left the dinner without saying goodbye to anyone, though there were some important Chinese local guests present. The same day, this Dubai delegation left the city without notifying Company H.

In this case, the staff in Company H is unfamiliar with the Muslim culture. Thus a sharp conflict destroyed their business. In Muslim culture, people pray for five times every day; they are extremely sensitive to pig or any topic related to pig and do not eat pork in their life time. Therefore, people should be very careful when doing business with people from Muslim culture.

From this case, we can also learn that people in doing business are often faced with employees, partners and colleagues of different cultural background. Multiculturalism in the workplace has increased, thus cultural conflict becomes very common. It means depression, serious physical reactions, anger, aggression toward the new culture, and even total failure. All of these reactions would obviously hamper cross-cultural communication. Therefore, to be successful in cross-cultural communication, we should know not only our own cultural rules but also other's cultural rules. Knowing cultural differences, business people could manage the problem of cultural conflict and the consequent frustration.

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