Case 11: The Phone Call to London

In his new job as export sales engineer for a Danish high-tech manufacturer in Jutland, Christian Thomsen was making his first sales call to Robert Smith, one of his company’s oldest customers in London.

Anxious to get through his long daily to-call list, Christian spoke briskly: “Good morning Mr. Smith, I hope you are well. Well, I would like to ask you about that order of repair parts you were to send us yesterday. When do you think we can expect to have it?”

“Oh I’m just fine, thank you! And then how are you enjoying your new position, Mr. Thomsen?” After Christian responded briefly, Robert Smith continued the conversation with questions about the weather in Denmark, about what was happening at Wimbledon that week, then about still other matters with no connection to the repair parts order. By the time the Briton finally got around to saying he was ready to email the list, almost 20 minutes had gone by.

Over coffee a few minutes later Thomsen asked his colleague Jan, who had many years of experience in the British market, “What was going on with Smith this morning? At that rate I will have no chance of working through my call list today.”

Smiling knowingly, Jan was able to quickly explain why Christian’s first British sales call had taken much longer than the Danish sales engineer had expected.


Which of the following British cultural characteristics best explain Christian’s surprise during his sales call?

1. Relationship focus.

2. High-context communication.

3. Hierarchical attitudes.

4. Emotionally reserved communication behavior.

5. None of the above; propose another solution.

Defend your choice.