Essentials for outsourcing: how to tackle cultural and language barriers

Essentials for outsourcing: how to tackle cultural and language barriers

“I confess a certain fondness for the old-style Wimpy’s with their odd sense of what constituted American food, as if they had compiled their recipes from a garbled telex.”

So mused US travel writer Bill Bryson in his 1995 book on the UK “Notes from a Small Island.”

When he first visited Britain in the 1970s, the nonplussed Bryson recalled his struggle to work out why the British would gingerly eat their hamburgers with a knife and fork. On this side of the Pond, we would dine on this novel delicacy – little fingers fully extended and napkins duly tucked in – as if we were sat next to a minor member of the Royal Family in the Savoy Grill.

Americans would simply grab the burger and wolf it down as though it were their last meal.

Same meal, same language, but a startlingly different approach.

As it is with burgers, so it is with outsourcing: beware of taking seemingly commonplace things at face value.

Not that people will easily believe this fact. You’ll often hear:

“Surely if we outsource to another English-speaking country – wherever it may be – that’s the battle won? We’ll save oodles of cash. It’s a no-brainer to me”.

Well no. Our own cultural is, in many respects, invisible to us. It just “is”. We rarely think about it.

No wonder this aspect of outsourcing is all too often ignored. Deal with the “legals” and everything else will fall neatly into place.

Again, no. Don’t let the similarities fool you. Cultural differences are likely to present problems when you least expect them. Not all of the time, but when you least expect it or, most probably, when you could well do without the hassle.

So here are two key ways on how to deal with the linguistic and cultural challenges

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About the author:
Paul Caddy is a highly experienced lawyer and legal writer specialising in commercial law and information law. He qualified in 2000 at Osborne Clarke and subsequently moved to Laytons where he undertook a broad spectrum of work in commercial law. His experience also includes large projects work where he helped to set up the North West Fund, the largest venture capital fund of its kind in the UK and one of the largest public sector funds of its kind in Europe.