Sunday, February 22, 2004

Counteracting the 'ugly American'

Some suggestions on what business executives working abroad can do:

Get more deeply involved in their countries. Corporate efforts so far have been shallow, said Jeffrey Garten, dean of Yale School of Management. Companies need to get serious in helping host countries modernize by paying for everything from sewer pipes to schools.

Tailor their products to local culture, not the global culture. "You can't just send a marketing guy to decide what kind of label to put on soap," Garten said. The soap's ingredients may have to be changed. Don't think everyone wants to be like Americans.

Listen, listen, listen. Interviews conducted in other countries and put together into a video show foreigners' top advice for Americans is "shut up and listen," said Keith Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide and chairman of Business for Diplomatic Action. "And when you do speak, stop being so loud." They didn't mean that metaphorically. Americans apparently use a higher volume to communicate.

Learn about their culture. Learn their language. "Learn the Super Bowl is of no real interest for them," Reinhard said, "and the World Series is not a global sporting event."

Avoid casual profanity common in American offices.

Don't wear religion so openly.

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