More Myths About Multicultural Customers
By Michael Soon Lee
one-third of all Americans today are minorities plus there are over
a million people from overseas immigrating every year. The numbers
of people from diverse cultures are growing so rapidly that the U.S.
Census Bureau expects this group to be nearly half of the population
by 2050. This is a huge market for retailers and service providers
all across the country – if you know how to meet the unique needs of
customers and clients from other cultures.
Multicultural People Have Superstitions And Beliefs That Are Totally
Incomprehensible To Americans: Remember that people in the
United States have beliefs that often baffle outsiders such as the
fact that black cats, walking under ladders, and the number thirteen
are unlucky. Most other cultures have their own beliefs that are
cultural beliefs happen to directly affect the purchase of goods and
services such as how items are packaged, colors that goods are
wrapped in and how items are priced. For instance, many Asians
believe that the number four is unlucky because when pronounced in
Japanese or Chinese it sounds very similar to those cultures’ word
for “death”. Items packaged in groups of four can symbolize bad
luck for those people who believe in numerology. Notice, for
instance, that if you buy a tea set it is usually packaged with five
cups, not four, for this reason.
other hand, the number three can be bad luck for many Southeast
Asians. You never want to package or even photograph them in groups
of three since bad luck is believed to come to the person in the
there are very few hospitals or hotels with a thirteenth floor in
America the same buildings in Asia lack a fourth floor. You can see
that this belief is similar in both countries just the numbers are
People From Outside The U.S. Are Unethical Because They Insist On
Renegotiating A Purchase Contract After It Has Been Signed:
While it’s true that people from other cultures often try to
renegotiate a purchase contract after it has been signed it has
nothing to do with ethics. America is a “low context” country where
everything is spelled out between people either verbally or in a
detailed, written contract. Other countries are “high context”
where much more information is derived from the context of the
communication and less is spelled out.
context countries it is understood that contracts only reflect the
agreement between the parties at the beginning of a relationship
which can change as they get to know each other. As a result, the
parties are obligated to help each other “adjust” the contract to
their needs until it is completed.
this in mind when working with customers from high context countries
such as Mexico, China, Japan, and the Middle East. You may wish to
save something for the end of the transaction as things adjust. If
you give your “bottom line price” too early it is sure to make
things difficult during your relationship.
People From Other Cultures Are Just Too Much Trouble To Bother With:
The author constantly hears this statement from retailers, service
providers and their salespeople throughout the country. Too bad for
them because if you know how to meet the special needs of
multicultural customers they can be just as loyal and enjoyable to
work with as anyone else. In addition, people from other cultures
are very good about referring their friends and family if you serve
them with sensitivity and patience.
bonus when working with people from outside the United States is the
opportunity to learn about other cultures. Just think of it. You
can take a round-the-world trip without getting seasick or losing
one piece of luggage!
Would Be Too Much Trouble To Customize My Product Or Service To
People From Other Cultures: Actually, making your business
attractive to people from other cultures is quite easy. First,
start with your brochures. Print them in the major languages of the
customers who frequent your store or office. Be sure to get help
with the translation because many concepts and words in English do
not convert easily to other languages. Also be sure to print in the
correct language. For example, while Chinese, Korean, and Japanese,
may appear similar to the untrained eye they are very different.
want to consider hiring someone who speaks the language of your
major group of multicultural customers or clients. However, if they
find you sensitive and patient with people who have language
problems they will usually find a friend or family member to
interpret. Excellent customer service is a universal language as is
friendliness and a willingness to learn about other people’s
hire a consultant to look at your store or office layout, packaging,
and other information to make it more culturally friendly. Issues
to consider include: “Feng Shui” (placement of objects for optimum
energy flow); good and bad numerology (the number eight can be lucky
for some groups while seven can be fortuitous for others); packaging
(remember to avoid grouping three or four of anything, depending on
the groups you serve); some groups prefer that gift be wrapped in
bright colors while others favor more muted tones (get help from a
consultant); and much more.
People Don’t Want To Talk About Their Culture – They Just Want To Be
Treated Like Everyone Else: This is probably the biggest myth
when dealing with people from other cultures. We know we are
different and unless something about culture is mentioned early in
your relationship with a multicultural client it will always stand
as a barrier to building true rapport.
take a sincere interest in your customers’ cultural background they
are usually more than happy to tell you about their language, food,
and even beliefs. Get into the habit of asking every
customer, “Where do your ancestors come from?” Notice, this can get
the conversation started with someone from Ireland just as easily as
asking customers how to say “hello” or even your name in their
native tongue. You may be slightly embarrassed as you struggle with
their language but they’ll love you for it because now you know how
they feel trying to speak English.
want to be truly successful with people from other cultures you must
make this agreement with each and every one of them. “I will teach
you about American customs and practices as it relates to my
business. In exchange, I want you to teach me about your cultural
background.” In this way, you develop a mutually-beneficial
relationship which will hopefully last a lifetime.
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about Michael Soon Lee.
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