Cultural differences

Addressing users on websites

Texts on websites written in English often address clients directly: “We have designed this website for you, to serve your needs, to benefit you in a certain way.”

In other countries this full frontal approach may be frowned upon. German readers are said to prefer a more subtle/distanced approach: “We have designed this website for private/business clients. It serves their needs, it benefits them in a certain way.”

Translators should take these differences into account when translating a website.

Addressing customers in correspondence/on the phone

In the English-speaking western world, the tendency is to use first names when addressing clients. This tactic is used in correspondence, on the phone or in person, even if the parties have never met before.

A few other European countries do not approve of using first names on first approach. First names are only OK when the person being addressed is known to the other party and has made it clear that he is happy to be addressed so.

It is also a no-no to say that your “colleague Susie” will contact your foreign business partner shortly. What continentals like to hear is that they can expect a call from “Sue Taylor” or “Mrs Taylor”.

Last but not least, always sign with your full name, not just your first name. What may look friendly and trendy in an English business letter can easily come across as over-familiar and insincere in a different culture.

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