Britten staan bekend om hun beleefdheid en gereserveerdheid, maar ook om hun gevoel voor humor. Wat betekent dat in de praktijk? En hoezeer verschilt de Britse zakencultuur eigenlijk van de Nederlandse? Hieronder vindt u een vergelijking van de twee culturen, met concrete tips voor het zakendoen.

From Emotions reserved to Emotions expressed


This dimension focuses on the degree to which people express emotions, and the interplay between reason and emotion in human relationships. Every culture has strong norms about how readily emotions should be revealed. In cultures where emotions are overtly displayed, people freely express their emotions: they attempt to find immediate outlets for their feelings.

In cultures where emotions are more reserved and not openly displayed, one carefully controls emotions and is reluctant to show feelings. Reason dominates one's interaction with others. In such countries, people are taught that it is incorrect to overtly show feelings. This contrasts with cultures in which it is accepted to show one's feelings spontaneously.

Different speech patterns may lead to confusion during negotiations.

Unlike many Latin cultures, the British tend to speak slower, with fewer interruptions. For cultures from Asia on the other hand, they may seem to speak very quickly without much silences. These differences may lead to confusion in cross-cultural interactions. The person who speaks quickly may be thought of as rude and uncaring. Conversely, someone who speaks more slowly may be thought of as disinterested. Sometimes the quicker person interprets silence as lack of understanding, and may launch into their speech all over again.

The British generally present their ideas in a very neutral way.

Do not be fooled into thinking that their lack of enthusiasm means that their ideas, products or services are inferior. The British are not given to great shows of excitement or eagerness.

Exercise restraint and present your ideas in a controlled fashion.

Great claims as to the merits of your products or services may leave your British counterpart feeling uncomfortable or even distrustful. An objective presentation of the facts without a lot of fanfare will probably be the most effective.

From Low involvement to High involvement


Generally, people from low involvement oriented cultures begin by looking at each element of a situation. They analyze the elements separately, then put them back together again - viewing the whole is the sum of its parts. They are also oriented on hard facts. People from cultures more oriented more towards higher involvement see each element in the perspective of the complete picture. All elements are related to each other. The elements are synthesized into a whole which is more than simply the sum of its parts.

Low involvement individuals engage others in specific areas of life, affecting single levels of personality. In such cultures, a manager separates the task relationship with a subordinate from the private sphere. Cultures more oriented more towards higher involvement engage others diffusely in multiple areas of life, affecting several levels of personality at the same time. In these cultures, every life space and every level of personality tends to be interwoven.

Communication tends to be fairly direct, but not as direct as American communication.

In general, the British tend to mean "No" when they say it. Sometimes they may use a conditional "No". For example, "No, I can't do that, but if you were to do this, then I could". Americans may therefore perceive the British as indecisive and may think that the British "No" can be overturned.

Written contracts take preference over verbal agreements.

Written contracts tend to be less detailed than American ones. There are likely to be penalties for missed deadlines, however. Usually, Britons will be flexible about discussing terms rather than appearing with a ready drafted contract. This can be perceived by some cultures as a lack of planning or a lack of professionalism. Other cultures view this flexibility as a strength. It is important that when you have entered into an agreement with a British company, that you are prepared to honor its terms. If you do not honor an agreement you may be regarded as untrustworthy.

British people may resent aggressive, direct demands.

They are often seen by other, more specific nationalities, like Americans, as preferring to negotiate in a social setting. It might be better to raise sensitive issues over dinner or through intermediaries. Although the British like specific information, they prefer to "get the big picture" first, rather than negotiating over minute details. The details will fall into place once the big picture has been agreed upon. This does not mean they are uninterested in detail, but they are prepared to spend a little time understanding the context first. More diffuse nationalities, such as Japanese and French, may still feel that the British hold them at arm's length, rather than forming a close attachment.

From Take control to Go with the flow


People who have an internally controlled mechanistic (or mechanistic) view of nature - a belief that one can dominate nature - usually view themselves as the point of departure for determining the right action. They seek to take control of their lives.

In contrast, cultures that go with the flow have an externally controlled (or organic) view of nature - which assumes that man is controlled by nature - orient their actions towards others. They focus on the environment rather than on themselves.

Fate or circumstances are not viewed as acceptable excuses for not meeting contractual responsibilities.

British negotiators tend to have fairly controlling personalities. If you fail to honor your obligations through bad luck, fate or circumstances beyond your control, this may be viewed as making excuses. The British may then either take legal action or choose not to deal with you again. A British negotiator is likely to enjoy overcoming obstacles and challenges and would probably enjoy working with you to solve joint problems. They will admire you, if you have had to overcome obstacles too. They are appreciative of people who show determination. In the face of a difficult negotiation, you are likely to win their respect by "sticking with it" instead of withdrawing. You can help to show your own ability to control by backing up your negotiations with plans to show how you are going to manage and control the negotiation process and any joint project you undertake with them.

Meetings are always called with a very specific purpose in mind.

People are asked to attend to make a specific contribution. They will usually be well documented and often bring 'handouts' (information sheets outlining key points) to the meeting for distribution among the others. The Chairperson will try to ensure that the meeting takes place at a good pace, that the agenda is followed, and that everyone present has a chance to participate. It is a process that is internally controlled and in which almost nothing is left to chance.

Britons are generally willing to take calculated risks, but only if it is clear that the change will be an improvement.

Unless it is quite clear that the change will be an improvement, they will prefer not to modify things. Therefore, if you are managing people in the UK, and you are interested in people's ideas as to how something could be improved, you may want to plant the seed and then give them some time to thoroughly assess the current situation. The British are more inclined to offer suggestions if given time to consider things carefully.

From Single tasking to Multi tasking


People who structure time and tasks 'one-at-a-time' view time as a series of passing events. They tend to do one thing at a time, and prefer planning and keeping to plans once they have been made. Time commitments are taken seriously and staying on schedule is a must.

Cultures that multi-task structure time synchronically and view past, present, and future as being interrelated. They usually do several things at once. Time commitments are desirable but are not absolute and plans are easily changed. They are less concerned about what single-tasking cultures define as punctuality.

In business, how people structure time is important with how we plan, strategize and co-ordinate our activities with others.

Negotiations tend to be structured and tend to follow a pre-determined agenda.

The British have a relatively sequential view of time; therefore it is helpful if you approach negotiations with an agreed agenda for meetings. It can help to ensure that both parties are clear about the steps the negotiation will go through. Be prepared to show delivery schedules and milestones for any deliverables required during the negotiation process. If there are any areas of uncertainty, it is best to identify them and point them out up front.

It is considered particularly rude for more than one person to speak at the same time.

In meetings with the British, you will find that they do not interrupt another person who is speaking, or if they do, it is done only in the most deferential way. Your British counterpart is probably waiting politely for his or her turn to say something. It may be a good idea to allow for periods of silence. The British are comfortable with some gaps in the conversation, and this will allow them the space they need to give their input. Questions aimed at drawing in a quiet member of a group are seen as an important part of social grace.

Deadlines, milestones and targets are considered to be very important.

Time tends to be viewed as sequential and this translates itself into organizational processes in terms of deadlines, milestones, targets and outputs. Indeed, success is often measured in terms of time and any delays are interpreted as being due to a lack of foresight or thorough planning as opposed to changing circumstances.

From What people do to Who people are


While some societies accord status to people on the basis of their performance, others attribute it to them by virtue of age, class, gender, education, etcetera.

The British are more likely to be interested in what you have achieved, rather than your social or personal position.

It is common when introducing people to each other around the negotiating table to describe the company the person works for, their job title and then describe some of the projects or negotiations they have been involved with recently. It will be assumed that if you are at the negotiating table you have the authority and skill to participate fully in the discussions. People will often describe the size (in value terms) of the negotiations they are involved with first, before they say whom they are negotiating with or describing the context. However, do this only in a factual manner. Boasting about one's accomplishments is considered unwanted.

Negotiators are chosen based on their experience.

This does not mean that your British counterpart does not attach importance to the negotiation. On the contrary, it shows that the person they have sent is held in high esteem. The negotiator may also be unaccompanied. Again, this is a sign of trust.

Use titles and surnames during initial meetings.

Use the title Mr. for men, Mrs. for married women, Miss for single women, or Ms, pronounced /mIz/, at the request of the woman concerned or if you do not know whether the woman is married or single. If the person has an honorary title or an academic title, such as Dr., he or she should be addressed accordingly as a sign of curtesy.

From Individual focus to Group focus


Do people primarily regard themselves as individuals or as part of a group?

In a predominantly individualistic culture, people are expected to make their own decisions and to only take care of themselves and their immediate family. Such societies assume that quality of life results from personal freedom and individual development. Decisions are often made on the spot, without consultation, and deadlocks may be resolved by voting.

In contrast to this, members of a predominantly group oriented society are firmly integrated which provides help and protection in exchange for a strong sense of loyalty. In such cases, people believe that an individual's quality of life improves when he takes care of his or her fellow man. The group comes before the individual, and people are mainly oriented towards common goals and objectives. Negotiation is often carried out by teams, who may withdraw in order to consult with reference groups. Discussion is used to reach consensus.

Often, individual orientation is seen as typical of modern society, whereas more group based cultures are associated with traditional societies.

Individuals are provided with a mandate and decision-making authority during negotiations.

Compared with other cultures, negotiations with the British may not seem particularly tough. You should be aware that there would often have been much tougher negotiations inside the company, prior to any dealings with third parties, in order to establish the mandate for the individual(s) representing the company. Once they have the mandate, the individual can operate without consultation.

Conflicts are generally resolved by voting.

The individual nature of British negotiators tends to mean that conflicts are resolved by voting, rather than seeking consensus. Conflicts are always resolved diplomatically but an individual with a mandate will thus be able to vote on issues on behalf of the company.

Most meetings tend to end in the allocation of separate action points to specific individuals.

Specific individuals are consequently held responsible for achieving the actions assigned to them. In Britain, people attending meetings are usually very conscious of their "remit". This can be basically defined as (a) the subject they have to cover in the meeting or (b) the instructions they have received from their superiors. When someone says "My remit is …" he/she is not talking about financial matters, but is indicating to the meeting how much authority he/she has to discuss and/or make decisions on certain points. The "remit" is considered as a powerful tool to justify behavior in a meeting.

From Rules/Standards to Exceptions/Relationships


This concerns the standards by which relationships are measured.

Rule based societies tend to feel that general rules and obligations are a strong source of moral reference. They are inclined to follow the rules - even when friends are involved - and look for "the one best way" of dealing equally and fairly with all cases. They assume that their standards are the right standards, and they attempt to change the attitudes of others to match theirs.

Relationship based societies are those in which particular circumstances are more important than rules. Bonds of exceptional relationships (family, friends) are stronger than any abstract rules. Response to a situation may change according to the circumstances and the people involved. Relationship based societies argue "it all depends"..

Presentations are often seen as sound bites, where the first impression counts for everything.

If successful, the door will then open for more thorough exploration and discussion. At first, it is probably best to concentrate on measurable benefits and concrete deliverables rather than perhaps on more tantalizing, but not easily describable, future potential.

Written contracts are used to govern business relationships.

The norm in the UK is to rely heavily on written contracts, both on an individual level, as regards employment, and on an organizational level with regard to supply, sub-contracting and service agreements. Such contracts tend to be defensive in that they are designed to protect against possible failure to meet stipulated conditions, rather than to encourage a productive relationship.

Business meetings conducted in the UK, follow a formal set of procedures.

There is almost always a chairperson who mediates the contributions of all those present. In fact, meetings often begin with the question, "Who's going to chair the meeting?" The chair is expected to keep the meeting to the pre-set agenda, to ensure that the length of time spent on one item does not mean that others cannot be addressed, and to ensure equal participation.

From Past to Future


If a culture is predominantly oriented towards the past, the future is often seen as a repetition of past experiences. In a culture predominantly oriented towards the present, day-by-day experiences tend to direct people's lives. In a future-oriented culture, most human activities are directed toward future prospects. In this case, the past is not considered to be vitally significant to the future.

In business, this may manifest as emphasis on projects successfully completed as evidence of capability for past oriented cultures. Or 'come and see what we are doing now' for present societies through to emphasis on research and innovation for future oriented cultures.

Contracts tend to be negotiated with a short-term perspective.

You may find it difficult to negotiate longer-term contracts. One of the ways you can perhaps overcome this, is to help your counterparts to expand their vision of the future. If you can show them clearly what a long-term contract might mean for them, in terms of their business and company rewards, you may be able to extend their time horizon.

Punctuality is highly valued and meetings will start and end on time.

The (previously circulated) agenda will clearly state the starting time, so it is advisable to arrive with time to spare to complete formalities and the inevitable small talk before the scheduled start of the meeting. Visitors from other countries where road traffic is more fluid should remember to allow plenty of time if they are driving to the meeting. Britain is a congested island and journey times between (and in) cities are often difficult to calculate, even on motorways.

Change processes may take a long time to implement and it is essential to generate support for such changes.

There is generally a strong regard for keeping things as they have always been. Procedures that are known and established have a definite appeal. For this reason, if you are managing people from the UK, you may need to take some time to generate support for changes that you would like to implement. However if you can paint a clear picture of the benefits of doing things differently, you will be able to overcome the British reluctance to change.