More Nigerian professionals are migrating to countries where better opportunities are offered and this may not be stopping anytime soon.
However, to adapt quickly to the business and corporate life in the United Kingdom, for example, Nigerians need to be aware that there are significant differences, between the business culture in the United Kingdom and that of Nigeria.
In general, the fundamental principles of business culture in the United Kingdom are courtesy, politeness, discipline and punctuality. The British are also known for their “tongue-in-cheek” and ironic humour, which they may use when doing business.
This article provides more details explanations of what aspiring migrant professionals in the UK need to know.
The business culture in the UK is less hierarchical, according to expatica.com than that of other European countries, but most decisions are made at the top although not implemented immediately but presented as suggestions or guidelines. Higher-ranking executives typically take their time making decisions.
According to Lola Ekugo, a C-Suite Tech executive and author of Lagos to London, “Time is time; there is no Nigerian time
because punctuality and time management are very critical. It is important that to arrive early or slightly earlier than the time set for a meeting”.
Also, she stated that if the lateness is unavoidable, you need to explain the reason for the delay and apologize to your British counterparts.
Personal relationships are important in both cultures. In Nigeria, it is normally a case of needing to ‘know someone’ or having a ‘connection’.
The British, also enjoy working with people they are familiar with in some way so in order to start business relationships, it is advised to try using a third-party introduction. Networking is frequently essential for long-term business success. Most British business or corporate people prefer to build long-term relationships with the people they do business with, so they will be wary if someone seems to only be interested in closing a deal quickly.
A pub lunch is also regarded as a good and informal location for starting a business relationship with the bill usually paid by the party that extended the invitation.
According to Santander Trade’s article on business practices in the United Kingdom, the British are used to communicating by email and then engaging in other forms of more direct communication, including face-to-face meetings and conference calls. It is better to send the email directly to the person concerned, by their proper title and full name and use a formal tone. The British would want to get to know you and understand what is in it for them before setting up a meeting.
Thus, the email requesting an initial meeting should address the specific needs of the specific department and clearly indicate the objectives of the meeting. It should be sent at least a few days in advance.
Greetings and Titles
Santander Trade’s Business Practices in the UK, indicate that handshakes should be brief but firm while maintaining direct eye contact during introductions.
Women tend to extend their hands first when meeting someone from the opposite sex. Use the “Mrs” or “Mr” title with the surname of the person you are meeting unless asked to start using their first name.
The younger generation, however, will most likely introduce themselves by their first name and address their counterparts by using their first names.
Most organisations in the UK have a gift and hospitality policy. For example, gov. The UK clearly outlines the policy on staff receiving gifts to avoid the risks of allegations of impropriety or conflict of interest.
In most UK companies, when a gift is offered, it is general practice to ensure it is not too expensive to be seen as a bribe or too cheap to be considered demeaning. Company greeting cards, pens, books, or a souvenir from the visitor’s country are all appropriate gifts. Gifts can be exchanged after a successful negotiation where the gifts will unwrap right away.
Victoria Chareka who lives in Hertfordshire says, “It is not uncommon to start meetings with small talk with humour to break the ice. Personal and private topics are not recommended, however.
During presentations at meetings, Nekita Joseph in North London speaks on this saying that “The British expect you during presentations at meetings to back up your arguments with facts and figures and avoid exaggerated claims. Your negotiations or recommendations should emphasize a win-win for both parties. The British are can be secretive about their final offer, so it is recommended not to expose your position too much early on”.
The British can also be quite cautious and guarded and unlikely to commit to anything immediately, so you should not expect final decisions to be made during the first meetings. Nevertheless, you can be proactive and ask suggestive questions. Also, give the impression that everything is well-managed and under control.
A follow-up meeting or business lunch/ dinner is likely the case if they are interested. However, if they say ‘interesting’ in a meeting and/or remain vague about the negotiations, they are most likely uninterested in your offer.
Politeness during communication:
Businessculture.org article speaks on Business communication among the British, stating that being polite is extremely important, which is why most British prefer indirect communication, especially when dealing with negative information.
To express their disagreement with you, they may use ambiguous statements, humour, or euphemism. So to avoid coming across as rude or arrogant try using indirect speech yourself.
Anything thing is, it is also best not to sound overly rehearsed during negotiations, as most British people are skeptical of slick social practices.