The news isn't good in the US. How does your company survive and thrive when faced with problems in one country? The answer is simple - internationalize your market, without threatening domestic success or survival. The internet in particular has brought the countries of the world closer together. International conference calls are free. Webcams allow us to see one another. Graphic design can be drafted on one continent and completed on another - all within 24 hours if necessary.
But much as technology has brought us together, ease of connection has caused many to blunder into new communities and countries, often worsening their image and ultimately failing in their designs for expansion. There is no substitute for understanding. Technology cannot transmit the life experience and filters of those who grow up in different cultures and countries.
Here are some short tips on understanding a new culture:
1) Tell yourself you don't understand at the outset.
2) Identify community figures to interview. (E.g. the leader, the gatekeeper, the rebel, the "average joe" etc.)
3) Remember they are your teacher. You are not their teacher.
4) Don't try to put their descriptions into your cultural box for judgment. Instead try to get inside "their cultural judgment box". (This is the essence of being bilingual and bicultural).
5) One two week trip will make you more liable to jump to conclusions than no visit - especially with little experience.
6) Start by interviewing nationals from your "target community" who live in your country.
7) Reflect conclusions back to interviewees for review.