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If you’re an American trying to do business in Europe, then knowing cultural and ethical differences will help you accomplish your objectives. If you ignore these differences, you may end-up jeopardizing your credibility, reputation and business relationships. Work-life balances, advertising, ethical perspectives and linguistics differ between the U.S. and Europe.
In the U.S., the 40-hour workweek for salaried employees really doesn’t exist anymore. Not only that, but many people don’t use all of their paid vacation time. Even hourly employees often find themselves working overtime, trying to pick up the slack for reduced workforces. The financial crisis of 2008 only made things worse for American workers. In Europe, however, there is a greater emphasis on work-life balance, with employees in many countries getting up to six weeks of paid vacation and working far fewer hours compared with Americans.
European advertising methods differ from America's not only in terms of language and content, but also in the way advertising is dispersed to the public. According to Eupedia, in Europe you are not likely to see people wearing giant, inflatable costumes promoting various products and services the way that you would in the United States. Also, roadside billboards are uncommon in Europe and in some places are illegal, because they’re considered a distraction. Instead, ads in Europe are disseminated on mainstream marketing channels, such as television and online, with a growing number of ads being tailored to mobile devices.
Social vs. Individual Perspective
In terms of business ethics, many Europeans tend to think of moral or ethical dilemmas on a societal level as opposed to Americans that view dilemmas on an individual level, according to the International Business Ethics Review. This difference in perspective can make it difficult for Europeans to relate to an American’s sense of business ethics and values. However, as cultures and businesses continue to integrate around the globe, this difference in perspective is likely to dissipate over time.
Given that European countries are in such close proximity to one another and that cultures tend to mix for business and other reasons, individuals in Europe usually know more than one language; children in many European countries are required to learn several languages. In the United States, however, this phenomenon is not the same. While there are plenty of individuals who are bilingual, there are not nearly as many multilingual individuals. Americans traveling to Europe may be surprised to find their counterparts more adept at communication.
- Santa Clara University: A History of Business Ethics
- Business Ethics: The Corporate Capture of the United States
- Green Biz.com: France vs. US: Which Work Culture is More Sustainable?
- Eupedia: What Differentiates Europeans from Americans -- the Cultural Gap Across the Atlantic
- International Business Ethics Review: A Comparison of Business Ethics in North America and Continental Europe
- CNN Opinion: America can Learn from Europe on Work-life Balance
Joseph DeBenedetti is a financial writer with corporate accounting and quality assurance experience. He writes extensively online with an emphasis on current trends in finance. As a Quality Assurance Analyst, he honed his technical writing skills creating standard operating instructions for a consumer finance organization.