There once was a stigma among Europeans that Americans were a bit vulgar and had no style. That’s what my mom said, anyway. Growing up as a German-American, I would hear my mother go on for hours about how plain American women used to be. “They look dowdy,” she said. “They have no table manners.” “They don’t know how to use what they have to get what they want.”
Those comments made me cringe. After all, I am an American (albeit a dual-passport-holding one). But those comments also made me pay close attention to first impressions and fitting in. The impression mom wanted to project in the 1970s was that she was the sexy, yet classy, Bond woman who could teach American women a thing or two. In contrast, our American neighbors thought my mother was a bit of a stuck-up maneater. (In reality, she was all bark…no bite).
As you can probably imagine, mom still has a very strong German accent, and she is proud of it. Over the years, however, that accent caused some miscommunication. “I love my husband’s muh-stard,” she would say (when she meant mustache, for example). Everything dramatic was always “tur-ble” (ie “terrible). There was also the little issue of German words that just don’t translate into English. Take fremdgeschämt, for example, which means “to be ashamed for someone else.” You can only imagine how often that word was tossed around in our house.
First impressions are based on your own cultural perspective. What’s acceptable and considered “good” in one country might not be correct for the next. Language is a big part of that.
As a U.S.-based communications and marketing firm, Communicators International speaks English fluently. We also write in English, we joke in English, and we know what images and ideas appeal to the American market. We’ve gotten around the world enough to fully appreciate the nuances of world cultures and how products researched and developed abroad can be repackaged to appeal to American consumers. That’s not to say that European companies shouldn’t play up the sex appeal of Paris or the style of Milan, but they should say it in a way that is clear to their target audience and with the words that will inspire consumers to spring into action.