Go Global: Appropriate Topics of Conversation With A Foreigner

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Countries:

  1. Spain
  2. Switzerland
  3. Sweden
  4. Singapore
  5. Saudi Arabia
  6. South Korea
  7. South Africa
  8. Scotland

How to start a conversation with a foreign prospective business partner? What topics are appropriate for discussing with them and which are not? Are there topics that would melt their hearts and make a conciliatory gesture towards you? You might be surprised by the number of different communication taboos that exist around the globe. There is no way you can make a guess based on your cultural experience that will meet the expectations of a conversation partner from another country. However, you as an entrepreneur still need to make a positive first impression on your colleagues and investors. Let’s explore the appropriate topics of conversation that are present in different parts of the world.

Spain

Talk About:

  • Football. Even if you are not a football fan, you must have heard about Real Madrid and Barcelona. These are the two famous and successful football clubs in Spain. Talking about their achievements or simply mentioning them in a conversation will be a big advantage for your business negotiation process.
  •  Food and drinks. Delicious paella and good house wine can’t stop you from expressing the excitement. Compliment the local food that the region you are visiting is famous for and you will always attract the attention of your conversation partner.
  • Art. The architecture of Antoni Gaudi takes one’s breath away. The paintings of Salvador Dali make the time go slower. Discussing the artists that made Spain world-famous is definitely a good idea.
  • Travel. To have an interesting conversation with a Spaniard, you do not have to focus on everything connected with Spain only. Talk about your home country and the places you’ve visited.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Bullfighting. There are those who are against it and do not understand the point of torturing animals, and there are those who support the old traditions. It is better to stay away from this topic and avoid expressing your feelings in regards to it.
  • Gender roles. There are still a lot more men in top management positions than women. This is a sensitive topic. If you meet with a person for the first time, it is not the best topic for discussion.
  • Politics and religion. Spaniards are passionate about everything and politics is not an exception. As a foreigner, you might get lost on the subject and won’t be able to have a productive dialog.


Switzerland

Talk About:

  • World economy. The Swiss always try to keep up with the latest world affairs and business events. If there is something interesting happened recently and you are aware of all the details, be sure to include this topic in your discussion.
  • Nature. You can talk about the beauty of nature in general, but it will be better to focus on the beauty of Switzerland. And you will not be flattering the citizens of this amazing country. It is indeed beautiful.
  • Sports. Make sure to mention your passion for winter sports. You might get an invitation to spend some part of the skiing season in Switzerland.
  • The high quality of Swiss products. Yes, it is a trivial thing to talk about but you might find a way to slip it in the conversation without making a big emphasis on the fact itself. It will be nice for your business partner to understand that you are aware of the famous Swiss quality. This is a great book to give you more insights.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Family and personal questions. The Swiss need time before they can share some details about their family and personal lives with a conversation partner. Wait until they mention in themselves but never ask first.
  • Swiss neutrality. Switzerland is famous for staying neutral during big conflicts arising in the world. It is not a good idea to ask questions about this phenomenon and express your viewpoint if you do not want the conversation to end up with a conflict.


Sweden

Talk About:

  • Swedish culture and traditions. If you need to impress a Swede, do your homework and learn something about this beautiful country. While you are at it, pay close attention to the things that distinct Sweden from the rest of the Scandinavian countries. This can be a great point in your conversation.
  • Sports. The Swedes like spending time outdoors. They love jogging, playing football, cycling, etc. If you have a sports passion as well, do not forget to mention that.
  • Philosophy. When you come to Sweden for the first time, you will be amazed by the tranquil environment and overall calmness. It seems that the Swedes are never in a hurry and have plenty of time to discuss everything, even the mysteries of our existence.
  • Art. There are many museums and art galleries in Sweden so talking about modern art is more than appropriate. Visit one of the exhibitions and share your impression with your business partner or investor.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Family. The Swedes will not share the details of their family life with you unless they are ready to trust you. A good sign of the progress of your relationships with a Swede will be an invitation for a dinner. And it should not be a dinner at a restaurant, only at home with a home-made food.
  • Income and status. It is very inappropriate to brag about your income or high status. They do not care about that. They only care about your personal qualities and character.

Norway has similar rules of conversation etiquette. So, if you will need a quick Norwegian translation help, you know where to find it.

Singapore

Talk About:

  • Cuisine. Once you are in Singapore, your experience of food and the combination of ingredients turns upside down. The flavors and aromas are incredible and completely unexpected.
  • Economic advancement. Singapore plays an important role in the world’s economy. Due to the simplicity of starting a business here, the city attracts thousands of entrepreneurs from around the globe.
  • Travel. People who live here travel a lot. You can discuss the exciting places you’ve visited making an emphasis on the world’s art development.
  • Future business plans. We should not forget that Singapore is a huge business center and discussing your entrepreneurial possibilities here is a good topic of a conversation.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Gossiping about other people. Although this would be inappropriate for most of the conversations in the world, we do not recommend you discussing personal life of other people.
  • Laws and fines in Singapore. The extreme fines for spitting, chewing a gum, and smoking are well-known outside Singapore. There is no point in bringing this up in a conversation with a local.

Saudi Arabia

 

Talk About:

  • Family. You can discuss the family matters as long as both parties are comfortable talking about them. To avoid an awkward situation, do not ask about female family members unless your conversation partner brings the topic up first.
  • Horse racing. Saudi Arabia is famous for its racehorse owners, breeders, and clubs. If you follow the latest sports news and have something say about horse racing, make sure to do that. Or at least you can ask your partner if they take part in it.
  • Architecture. You simply have to mention the uniqueness of Saudi Arabian architecture at some point of a conversation. Their great desire to create the tallest and most astonishing buildings and landscapes can’t be left without your attention.
  • Health. It is a custom to ask someone you are talking to about the health of his/her relatives. It shows your good manners and respect.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Politics. Do not even go there. It is an extremely difficult topic for a conversation which rarely ends well. Especially, when it is a country that is currently facing political conflicts.
  • Bad luck. There is a long list of Arab superstitions you should learn about before going to this country. You will have to control what you say and do according to this list if you want to make a good impression.

Don’t hesitate if you need Arabic translation help at some point. Translateshark.com is always ready to assist you.

South Korea

Talk About:

  • The economic miracle of South Korea. One can really admire the speed of an economic growth and international business achievements of this country. Share your astonishment with your companion to get their affection.
  • Culture. For someone coming from the Western part of the world, South Korea will seem very unusual and exciting. This is a country with huge cultural heritage.
  • Olympic Games. There are a lot of Olympics fans here so you can discuss the previous success of the South Korean team.

Do Not Talk About:

  • North Korea. Do not give into the temptation to start discussing the conflict between North and South Korea. You might want to learn a unique point of view of locals instead of reading the headlines in international newspapers. But it will be better for everybody if you do not initiate such a conversation.

South Africa

Talk About:

  • Sports. Learn some information about the achievements of South Africa in golf and rugby. Then, you will be able to compliment the locals and support their passion for an active way of spending time.
  • Culture. Ask about traditions and cultural aspects of the country as there is a lot of facts foreigners do not know about it.
  • Social aspects. You can acknowledge the fact that the country has been making huge steps in the right direction in terms of the social and racial policies. Just make sure you are aware of the relevant facts.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Racist and sexist topics. It is better not to take part in the conversations focused on these topics. These are still pretty vulnerable issues for the locals to talk about.
  • Something you do not know. Although this rule should always apply to your business etiquette, it is extremely important in South Africa. You will lose respect if you convince everyone that you know something for sure and it turns out to be the other way around.


Scotland

Talk About:

  • Weather. If you think this topic is very trivial and boring, you are wrong. For the British, talking about the weather is simply one more sign of politeness. It can change for 10 times a day and there is always something about it to discuss.
  • Football. It is obvious that football plays a special role in the lives of the British. Make sure to stay neutral and do not reveal what team is your favorite to avoid any conflicts.
  • History and literature. If you do not know any details of the Scottish history or have forgotten about the Scottish famous writers, make sure to prepare for the meeting and get some information.

Do Not Talk About:

  • Differences between the Scots and the English. This will not get you anywhere. At best you will spoil the mood of your companion, and at worst you will initiate a fight.
  • Family. This is a sensitive subject. Let your conversation partner decide whether to bring it up or not.
  • Job and position. It is considered to be impolite. Although Americans can ask the questions about one’s profession during the first minute of meeting a person, it is not the best idea for a conversation in Scotland.
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