Four Communication tips for Swiss SMEs in the USA

Most Swiss natives are able to use their skills in English to navigate today’s globalized world. We have watched plenty of Hollywood blockbusters to help us on our way. Thus, Americans seem familiar. However, in order to conquer the American market, we need more know-how. For a successful business, Swiss exporters have to be able to completely understand the American culture. Read on to find out what you need to know to communicate successfully on the US market.

American business partners are friendly and courteous
American business partners are friendly and courteous

1. Understand your own cultural identity first

The most common mistake made by Swiss exporting companies and US-based subsidiaries of Swiss companies is that they forget how important it is to understand their own cultural identity before trying to get to grips with the prevalent culture in the US. Getting to the source of our own beliefs, values, and identity can be a challenging task, as they are all subconscious imprints of our personality. Most of us look at the world from an “ethno-centric” point of view, meaning that we judge other cultures through our own cultural lens without even noticing it. All of us evaluate the world around us – it is essential for survival. In an intercultural setting, however, we have to be more wary of our immediate and intuitive reactions. When we notice ourselves judging a situation or person – be it positively or negatively – this is the time to take a step back and question what we are basing our judgments on.

2. Do not be too humble – assert yourself

In America, it is regarded a good thing to speak up and get yourself noticed. By contrast, the Swiss generally prefer to be more low-key about things. Americans are good sellers and they are proud of it. The Swiss tend to be underestimated here, because they rarely talk openly about their talents, success stories or what they can bring to the table. Even when they do, they are often not assertive enough. Our advice is to practice your assertiveness prior to dealing with a real-life situation and test yourself to find out whether your confidence shines through when speaking in corporate settings.

3. Don’t underestimate corporate cultures

More often than not, US companies will have an in-house corporate culture that is just as important or held in even higher regard than US culture as a whole. Americans are very good at sticking to rules, so when they say they have a corporate culture, they actually mean it. We therefore recommend that you familiarize yourself with your partner’s or clients’ corporate culture prior to your visit.

4. Don’t misinterpret the informality and approachability of Americans

You cannot do much wrong in your first encounter with an American. Americans are indeed mostly informal and relaxed. We would still recommend navigating around delicate topics like politics, religion, and money in the beginning. Also don’t forget that most Americans are very proud of their country.

Also American business men and women are generally very friendly and accommodating. They may even invite you for a barbecue to their house. American hospitality may even go as far as an invitation to Thanksgiving even if you don’t know the host very well. This is part of their etiquette though and should not be overestimated. An invitation to a barbecue or Thanksgiving doesn’t automatically mean you have a deal.

You may find that even after you become familiar with the main facets of a culture, you still find yourself at a loss from time to time. Why is that the case? It is because culture generally boils down to values and identity, i.e. two very delicate aspects of our psychology that are mainly unconscious. In other words, even if you know you have to be assertive when talking about your assets, you may still find it difficult to put this into practice, because it goes against your desire to be humble.

About plus305

The creative boutique offers intercultural trainings, advertising campaigns, and contact networks for the US market and addresses this conflict of identity and knowledge by delivering a Cultural Intelligence Assessment (CIA) to measure the CI of your employee or organization regarding their performance across six capabilities.

This is how plus305 guarantees successful and rewarding interaction and dialogue in the world of US business without compromising the person’s or organization’s own identity. This is also important in terms of the corporate communications strategy of Swiss companies on the US market: don’t lose your identity, but don’t get lost in translation either! Use the language and cultural references of your target market, but don’t give up on your own corporate values or your message – the key is to adapt the way you communicate them.

Export: tapping into new markets

The USA is one of the most important trading partners for Swiss SMEs. Would you like to explore your business opportunities in the land of unlimited possibilities? Switzerland Global Enterprise offers first free country consultations, prepares more detailed market and competition analyses according to your needs and informs you about legal regulations.


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