exporting to the usa - manhattan

Exporting to the USA – Mind the Culture Gap

It’s still unclear what is going to happen post-Brexit, but in terms of trade there has been a fair amount of noise about a potential agreement with the United States of America.

With the prospect of cheap and colourful breakfast cereals hitting our shelves soon, British firms need to be ready to take advantage of any deal, and in return flood America with equally exciting examples of our national domestic products and services.

For British businesses looking at exporting to the US, it’s critical not to enter the market without first getting to understand it. Although you may not think it, there is a large and deep cultural ocean that divides us.

The cultural differences between us Brits and our American cousins go way beyond ‘pants’ or ‘trousers’ and who really plays the game of ‘football’ (we do obviously).

Hidden away, deep at the core of our two national psyches, we can find radical differences in how we think and how we see the world around us. Here’s three.

Optimism

Americans exude an almost death-defying optimism and expect it in others. The can-do attitude inherited from their pioneering forefathers means they approach life with a Hollywood-like zeal. Life is awesome and every day you should strive for more awesomeness whether through the latest diet, grooming products or hosepipe to wash the SUV with.

Us Brits on the other hand have a much damper approach to life, literally.  We tend to detach ourselves from the apparent absurdity of planet earth. It is what it is. Our stiff upper lip helps us take life’s knocks and our reserve keeps us at a safe distance from the slap of destiny’s hand. It’s always time for a cup of tea.

Money

Americans like money. Money means you have power to choose what to buy and where you live, which means freedom. Freedom is what it’s all about. Americans are proud to display their wealth and openly talk about wages and profits, in fact, it’s their stamp of success.

Us Brits however, measure success in much more sophisticated ways. Money can’t buy you class. Money can’t buy you manners. Money is not the measure of a man. Why would we ask someone what they earn? Dreadfully rude. Compared to Americans we’re all Socialists.

Change

Americans believe in progress. Newer, shinier, faster and bigger all mean progress. The mentality is to look forward not backwards as the future promises to be better. Change is grabbed, embraced and kissed upon first sight with questions asked later. Their ‘go get’ attitude sees them through most things.

Us Brits, yes, of course we like having more than 4 TV channels and the latest smartphones but let’s be honest, they still don’t make anything like they used to. Houses, trains, music, politicians and the NHS were all better back in the day. The past is when the good stuff happened. Change brings unfamiliarity and risk as well as being rather bothersome.

Exporting to the USA – understanding differences

As with approaching any foreign market, if you have eyes on exporting to the USA, you need to understand that cultural differences are going to impact nearly everything you do – your sales prospecting, your packaging, your marketing strategy and much more. Get to grips with what makes America tick and your time and investment will pay awesome dividends.

IOE&IT Member Neil Payne founded Commisceo Global, a training company helping people gain the skills and insights to do business better globally. Specialising in online courses the firm also provides training in areas such as cultural competence and international negotiations.

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