1. Planning 

However much you normally communicate, double it – dealing with clients on the other side of the globe requires extra time for responses.  Try and include more regular review milestones in your project to prevent misunderstandings taking your project too far off-track.  If you are working on an event with teams across time zones, there are several tools you can find online that can help with meeting planning by showing you the exact times across multiple cities.

Be aware of the typical work hours and daily routines. In Germany it’s not uncommon for people to be at their desk at 7.30 a.m. and away from the office by 4pm. In Asia, standard lunch times can be 90 minutes long, with calls held by reception between 12-2pm. 

Research the region and its unique challenges early on...and plan for contingencies.  For instance, pay attention to national and regional bank holidays such as Chinese New Year or Dragon Boat Festival in Asia...or Columbus Day in America, which may or may not be a public holiday as it varies by state. 

2. Communication with Clients

Consider the client’s preferred channels of communication and keep in mind written and spoken ‘tone of voice’.  Consider that contacts who speak a different language may prefer written communication over verbal so they can take a time to absorb and understand details.  If you do call, they will almost certainly welcome an email follow up summarising the call and confirming agreed actions.
 
Universally, politeness goes without saying. In Asia it’s especially important to ensure you are respectful as ‘loss of face’ is deemed shameful. Contact with German and Scandinavian clients tends to be brisk and matter of fact. In contrast, the British are often seen as overly polite and ‘beating about the bush'.

3. Translation & Localisation

Make sure you get any translation work done early.  Translations should be 'back translated' by a local expert to ensure they are appropriate. Fitting translated copy into materials at the last minute may be a headache, so consider word length and design together.  Here’s an example that demonstrates why.  As you can see, the German version of ‘Favourites’ exceeds the space allotted for the button.

 

Proofreading should include back translation by a native speaker, who interprets a document previously translated back to the original language.  

Double check before going-live that what is written is what you mean to say.  In the example above, ‘Favourites’ was incorrectly translated to 'What do you most like to do?’.  In another example, a back translation of the Welsh road sign (right photo) would have avoided the mistake which reads: ‘I am not in the office at the moment.  Send any work to be translated.’ 

 

English Usage & Spelling around the World 

Apply proper word usage and spelling for your targeted country to avoid confusion and demonstrate professionalism.  Remember that even English speaking countries around the world often use different words and spellings.  For example, Canadian English has many differences from American English...and British English. Spelling tends to favour the British way, such as putting the ‘u’ in 'favour' and 'colour' ...except that Canadians often substitute ‘z’ for ‘s’, as the Americans do. Commonly used event terms may also differ, as shown in these examples (left image).

You may also want to consider whether the language works across all regions.  For example, just before launching a new app feature we re-named it from ‘Blogwall’ to ‘Forum’ so that it would be better understood in Asia

4. Cultural Sensitivities

Colour

In the West, it’s fashionable for designers to use black and white photos.  However in China, Korea and other Asian countries white represents death, mourning and bad luck (which is why it’s traditionally worn at funerals). We have found it better to err on the side of caution and use colour images in those regions. By contrast, red and gold are considered lucky colours in Asia and you’ll see them commonly in imagery.

Numbers

In Chinese culture, the number four is considered very unlucky. The Chinese word for ‘four’ sounds tonally similar to the word for ‘death’, which has led to it being one of the most omitted numbers in Chinese society. Similar to how the 13th floor is skipped in western hotels, the fourth floor and in some cases all floors with the number four are left out of Chinese buildings.  That means you'll go straight from floor 39 to floor 50. 
Ironically though, the 54th level is left on many buildings because five is tonally similar to the word ‘not’, therefore combining it with ‘four’ is considered lucky as it sounds like ‘no death’.

Time Zones 

The 24 hour time format is mainly used in Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America.  The U.S., Australia and most of Canada more commonly use the 12 hour clock with a.m. or p.m.   

5. Production and Logistics 

Printing

Printing takes time, so plan accordingly so you only have to do it once and use a local printer if you can. Better yet – go as digital and paperless if you can.

Shipping

At Concise we deploy our fleet of over 3,000 iPads around the world.  We know from experience that if you’re shipping equipment internationally, you’ll need to plan for delays, cancellations, visas and other paperwork.

A ’Carnet’ (pronounced kar-nay) or ATA Carnet is an international customs and temporary export-import document. It is used to clear customs in 87 countries and territories without paying duties and import taxes on merchandise that will be re-exported within 12 months.  Carnets are also known as ‘Merchandise Passports’ or ‘Passports for Goods’. 

EU - In general, shipping from the UK to the EU is very straightforward.

USA – You will need your Carnet to be in good order. Ensure you are well briefed and prepared for Customs who can be very thorough.  Be polite and professional at all times.  Don’t forget ESTAs (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) for your personnel travelling to the USA who are eligible nationals of a Visa Waiver Program country and are entering for 90 days or less.

China – Importing equipment into China can be very difficult.  Consider hiring in hardware locally.

Key Takeaways 

  • Allow extra time for each phase of the project, especially planning
  • Have regular scheduled client and supplier calls – it can be difficult to reach people ad-hoc in different time zones
  • Research the local culture to avoid unwitting offence
  • If you’re dealing with foreign languages, make sure you have a fluent native speaker on the project.  
  • Translate early to ensure it fits into designs
  • Ensure you understand what’s required to ship equipment into the host country

Our Chime event app and Check-In tool were used by clients in over 100 cities and 27 countries last year.  Get in touch to find out how Concise expertise can help at your next global event.