From the outside in, understanding cultural differences often only goes as deep as the country in question. Because we have some generalities about Germans or the Japanese, we expect everyone we encounter from those countries to act in the same fashion.
But ask yourself: would Americans from the west coast and the south act the same? What about someone working for the government compared to someone working for Facebook? Those differences can be quite drastic. Here is how you transfer that knowledge to your overseas business.
Get familiar with regions
Just as in the US, different regions of a country could have different cultural norms. People from the south of France do business in a different way than they do in Paris. Although guidebooks could help, the best resource from which to learn about these differences would be a native. Your local managers will be a great asset here.
Keep ages in mind
American business culture values ideas and work ethic over age. Mark Zuckerberg has reached the same level of admiration as Warren Buffett, even though the Facebook founder is less than half his elder’s age.
But that isn’t the case in most other countries. Make sure to treat elders with a different level of respect than you would younger workers. In the right countries, they will both expect you to exercise that nuance.
Companies are different
American companies spend a lot of effort (and money) in corporate culture. Why would you think it would be any different in other countries? Moreover, you can use existing understanding to make an educated guess on how to treat different companies.
Here, we would expect an employee from IBM to have a different mindset than one from Google. The corporate culture has groomed them to fit. The same is true in other countries. But when you are dealing with multinational conglomerates, it gets a little tricky. Yes, the company has a local office in the foreign country. But the company’s roots might pervade the office anyway.
Again, research into these areas is possible in guidebooks or online, but people are the most accurate resource. If you don’t have a native at your disposal, quiz an expat that has experience in the area in which you will be working. They can share their successes and pitfalls, making your process a lot easier.