International tender writing for different cultures

When writing tenders in an international market it is important to be aware that different national cultures have different expectations and conventions in the way they communicate and do business.

Different cultures have different communication styles and cultural norms. You can see cultural differences in many ways. In some cultures:

  • it is common to be very direct and to the point, while in others, it’s more important to be polite and indirect
  • it is considered impolite to brag or boast while in others, it’s more acceptable to highlight your strengths and accomplishments
  • Even in English, some cultures prefer to use more formal or technical language, while others prefer to use more informal language

Hofstede’s cultural model in international tender writing

Hofstede’s cultural model, which was developed by Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, identifies six dimensions of cultural difference:

  • individualism vs. collectivism
  • power distance
  • masculinity vs. femininity
  • uncertainty avoidance
  • long-term vs. short-term orientation
  • indulgence vs. restraint

Understanding these dimensions is helpful in international tender writing for different cultures.

Hofstede’s model is not a definitive guide to understanding cultural differences. It is a generalisation of cultural tendencies, and certainly should not be used to stereotype cultures. It is important to do your own research to understand the specific needs and expectations of a target market.

Individualism vs. collectivism

People in individualistic cultures, tend to think of themselves as individuals and to value individual achievement, freedom, and privacy. In collectivistic cultures, people tend to think of themselves as part of a group and to value group harmony, loyalty, and interdependence.

Individualism is highly valued in the United States, so when undertaking international tender writing for US customers, it may be more effective to focus on the benefits of the product or service for the individual customer.

In China, collectivism is highly valued, so when undertaking international tender writing for Chinese customers, it may be more effective to focus on the benefits of the product or service for the group or organization.

Power distance

Hofstede defines power distance as the extent to which the less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally. Cultures with a high power distance tend to have a more hierarchical society, where people are more likely to accept unequal distribution of power and wealth, and less likely to question the actions of those in power. Cultures with a low power distance tend to have a more egalitarian society, where people are more likely to question the actions of those in power and to expect equal distribution of power and wealth.

In countries like Saudi Arabia and Mexico, power distance is high, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasize the company’s status and reputation.

In countries like Australia and Canada, power distance is low, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasize the company’s transparency and social responsibility.

Masculinity vs. femininity

Hofstede defines masculinity as a society that values achievement, heroism, assertiveness, and material success, and femininity as a society that values relationships, modesty, caring for the weak and the quality of life.

In countries like Japan and South Korea, masculinity is highly valued, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to use assertive language and to emphasise the competitive advantages of the product or service.

In countries like Sweden and Norway, femininity is highly valued, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to use more inclusive language and to emphasize the social benefits of the product or service.

Uncertainty avoidance

Hofstede defines uncertainty avoidance as the extent to which a society feels threatened by ambiguity and uncertainty and tries to avoid these feelings by instituting rules and regulations. Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to have more rigid laws and regulations and to be more risk-averse, while cultures with low uncertainty avoidance tend to have more flexible laws and regulations and to be more tolerant of change and risk.

In countries like Greece and Portugal, uncertainty avoidance is high, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the company’s experience, stability, and the safety and security of the product or service.

In countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, uncertainty avoidance is low, so when undertaking international tender writing for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the company’s innovation, adaptability, and the potential for growth and development.

Long-term vs. short-term orientation

Hofstede defines long-term orientation as a society’s focus on persistence, perseverance, and thrift, and short-term orientation as a society’s focus on immediate satisfaction and pleasure. Cultures that are more long-term oriented tend to be more focused on planning for the future and making investments, while cultures that are more short-term oriented tend to be more focused on immediate results and rewards.

In countries like China and Japan, long-term orientation is highly valued, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the long-term benefits of the product or service and the potential for future growth

In countries like Italy and Spain, short-term orientation is highly valued, so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the immediate benefits of the product or service and the potential for quick returns on investment.

Indulgence vs. restraint

Hofstede defines indulgence as a society that allows relatively free gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun, and restraint as a society that suppresses gratification of needs and regulates it by means of strict social norms. Cultures that are more indulgent tend to be more relaxed and open to new experiences, while cultures that are more restrained tend to be more traditional and conservative.

In countries like United States and Australia, “indulgence” is acceptable so when writing tenders for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the pleasure and enjoyment that the product or service can provide.

In countries like China and Singapore, restraint is more highly valued, so when undertaking international tender writing  for customers from these countries, it may be more effective to emphasise the practicality, reliability and safety of the product or service.

Understanding international tender writing

In conclusion, when writing tenders for different cultures, it’s important to understand the cultural context and to be mindful of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, such as individualism vs. collectivism, power distance, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term vs. short-term orientation, and indulgence vs. restraint.

By understanding these cultural differences, you can adjust your international tender writing to better appeal to different cultures and increase your chances of winning the contract. However, it is important to use these dimensions to better understand cultural norms but not to stereotype people and organisations.