Cultural Differences Between Americans and Europeans

In china business, usa by Michael Michelini8 Comments

Being in China, I didn’t expect to be exposed to so many europeans….but from my experiences I have gotten involved with more Europeans than Americans here. Of course I am learning more and more how do to business in China as a foreigner…..but at the same time, I am getting exposure to doing business with Europeans.

My involvement with DBR Shenzhen / Finland didn’t work out…and I think that is for a few reasons. But one I will chat about today is the differences I noticed between Europeans and Americans. I would talk about apples, and I would get responses about oranges…..

Difference 1: Language – I am going to admit it, again, I am a spoiled american! I grew up speaking 1 language, doing business in 1 language, and mostly dealing with people who grew up in similar households and cultures as I did. Of course I grew up in a middle income suburb in Hartford, Connecticut – mostly exposed to Spanish (Puerto Rican), Italian, and Polish heritages….and maybe some of the parents / families couldn’t speak english and at my friend’s houses we’d hear the mom or dad talk in Italian or Spanish to our friends…..but I would say minor exposure to those who didn’t grow up speaking English language.

Now, dealing with Europeans, they are used to dealing in multiple currencies and multiple languages. And they LOVE to discuss the differences in the cultures between their countries in the EU. I feel left out, as I am an “ignorant” or “sheltered” American guy, and am not familiar with the politics or cultural differences of Germany versus Holland, for example. So many times, I am in bars with Europeans, and they would talk about these differences, and these experiences with different cultures…and I am left there listening, as I cannot really add anything to the conversations….

But not only is this difference with the culture and the knowledge of the cultural differences in the EU, but its also that most do not grow up with English, or not using it commonly. So when I deal with a European business associate, they struggle to express themselves in the English language.

Difference 2: Design / Detail – One thing taht is always annoying to me, is when in a project, the design is in the driver’s seat. To me, functionality is the primary focus – GET THE DAMN THING TO WORK…..then worry about how beautiful it is. I think this is why I enjoy doing business in china….as here in China they are also “get it done, worry about details later” attitude. I have the perspective that American’s have the “cowboy” attitude….and Chinese are similar there. But in Europe….they are more concerned with the design layout and the perfectionism of the product. This is a common dispute I have, with anyone, but I notice that in Europe, design is so important so I am often bumping heads in this department.

Difference 3: Work Ethic – I know I may get some heat from friends on this one…but I think most Europeans want to enjoy life, and are more casual about getting the project done as urgently as I may feel. Here though, Northern Europeans (Finland, Sweden) seem to have a stronger work ethic than the Southern Europeans (Italy, Spain), but even still, I sometimes would generalize that in Europe, its not normal to work overtime and weekends.

Of course there are books probably written about this subject, but I wanted to write down some of the differences I have highlighted in my dealings with Europeans, as an American.

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Danny Lee
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Danny Lee

Thanks for sharing, learned a lot

Andrew Reich
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Cowboy – don’t let that bull buck you. Proud to be an American!

Echo Zhang
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Echo Zhang

Be honest, in my experience the Europeans is more understanding and respect culture difference than Americans.That time in Baya Bar I already Recognized you are not good at that,cause you did not say anything when the guys talked about holland… neither did i and i thought we are bored guys.

Echo Zhang
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Echo Zhang

Hi Mike,but we can not say that is not good and that’s why chinese people think the Europeans is more gentle and tradditional than Americans. The Amercian pay more attention on personal interests and pragmatism. You guys looks do not care anything,actually i know that is not really.