Written vs. spoken: exploring preferred communication methods in international business

Conducting business is a multi-faceted affair. PowerPoints, infographics, telephones, social networks – any and every style of communication conceivable is brought into play in order to broadcast key messages, promote a product or service or seal that ever-so lucrative deal.

Generally though, communication methods can be categorised into 2 distinct approaches; the written word and the spoken word. At home in Britain, written contracts, agreements, emails contribute greatly to successful business dealings, but the spoken word is also vital in wooing and wowing potential new clients.

But when UK businesses wish to spread their wings and conduct business internationally, do they always know the best way? Is written communication the key, or does success depend on the verbal approach?

Let’s look at how the written word vs. spoken word debate plays out in various cultures overseas:

The Spoken Word
Middle East

The Middle Eastern culture places a great deal of value on someone’s word. Contracts are seen as memorandums of understanding, rather than binding agreements, while a person’s word is connected to their honour.

Latin America

In many Latin countries business communication is also predominantly oral. If you choose to send a contract via email, you’d be expected to follow it up with a phone call. And in Mexico, face-to-face meetings are preferred over telephone conversations.


Pakistani businessmen place a huge emphasis on building relationships. It’s not unusual for business itself to not be discussed for the first few meetings until relationships have been developed.

The Written Word

Germans do not need a personal relationship to do business. Decisions and discussions are generally communicated in writing. Prior to a meeting, ensure that all of your printed materials are provided in English and German, and confirm your attendance in writing, and in German.


For Australians, personal relationships and emotions are not important in business dealings. Instead, you should present your case with facts and figures and should expect business to be done quickly, with a minimum of small talk.


In Denmark, you should always have a presentation complete with facts and figures to back up what you’re saying. You should also confirm business appointments in writing and send a written agenda beforehand, which you adhere to rigidly on the day.


So, what can we learn from these examples? Quite simply, when planning to do business overseas, KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! It really is essential to fully research the cultural preferences of your potential business partners before expanding into a new market. Expansion plans are often exciting but can also be daunting. Effective communication plays a major role in the success of market penetration and an excellent product or service can be hindered by an incorrect of potentially offensive approach.

If you’re looking to expand into a new market overseas and have any questions about how to approach communication requirements with new markets, please contact a member of our team on + 44 (0) 1926 335 681 or email info@comtectranslations.com.

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