Business communications in Slovakia Republic
Communication is probably the most important aspect of doing business, yet we tend to take it for granted when doing business in our own country because we are dealing with people that speak the same language like us.
The section is divided into three areas: communication, working practice, and eating out. It explains the differences between face-to-face communication, and dealing with people via the telephone or by letter/fax etc. How important is it to address people by their correct title? How should you introduce yourself? Should you always give your business cards? How important is it to get things agreed in writing?
We think that this covers most business -situations. By reading this section, you should be sufficiently well equipped with the basic ‘ground rules’ for doing business in the Slovak Republic.
Face – to – face communication
Slovaks are not talkative by nature, preferring to be less direct and more cautious in their approach. Partners should be prepared to read between the lines. This does not mean that Slovaks are trying to hide something, just that they are not used to speaking their minds to total strangers.
In the case of non-verbal communications, Slovaks are known for their cool heads and reserved attitude. Communicating with their hands or wild gesticulation is not typical of Slovak behaviour.
Be aware that maintaining direct eye contact is an important part of communicating your intentions in a business meeting; it shows your level of interest in the discussion and that you are listening. On the other hand, not making eye contact could be interpreted as deceptive behaviour and lack of interest.
Many of the people in management positions in the Slovak Republic are multilingual. Most speak English, Russian and German and people from southern Slovakia might also speak Hungarian. In general, older people can speak a little bit of German, Russian, English and Hungarian in the South. The younger generation speak mainly English as a second language, but French and German are also popular. University educated people tend to speak more foreign languages than the rest of the population.
Most of the younger manages speak fluent English, which should negate the need for an interpreter. A foreign business partner should always ask before the meeting whether an interpreter is needed, in order to ensure there are no difficulties with communication and avoid any embarrassment. It advisable to learn a few greeting phrases in Slovak to break the ice at the beginning of the meeting.
The Slovak language differentiates between the singular (you) and plural (you) forms of address. The singular form is a very familiar way of addressing someone and is used together with the first name. The latter one is a more formal form of address and is used in conjunction with the surname. However, it is also possible to use the plural form in conjunction with the first name as a form of address. Thus, be careful, even the use of the first name does not necessarily mean the relationship is too familiar. This is in contrast to English, where there is only one form of addressing your business partner and a level of familiarity can be assumed when people address each other on first name terms.
Slovak small and medium sized enterprises welcome every opportunity to do business with foreign partners. For the majority of SMEs, it is assumed that a written agreement has priority over a verbal agreement. As it is always difficult to substantiate and refer to a verbal agreement, written agreements are always recommended.
In order to find information about potential business partners and opportunities in the Slovak Republic, it is recommended to start with the following organisations:
http://www.tradepartner.eu/commerce/slovakia (Slovakian Chamber of Commerce and Industry)
http://www.sario.sk/ (Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency)
You can also meet representatives of Slovak companies at trade shows, seminars and conferences abroad.
Foreign partners are advised to make their first contact in written form, either by letter or fax or email. Communications should be addressed directly to a specific person who is able to make a quick decision, i.e. the Managing Director. If, after the first contact, it is known that the Slovak manager speaks English, then the best and fastest way is to make a more direct connection and arrange a face-to-face meeting. Slovaks prefer to have one-on-one negotiation.
There is still a strong tendency to use professional titles in Slovak society. Most individuals are addressed according to their profession or how their name is written on their business card. Therefore, individuals might be addressed as Mr. Engineer, Mr. Magister, or Mr. Doctor. In conversation with local business partners, you should always address them by their job title, except in cases where academic titles are mentioned on the business card, in which case academic titles will have priority over business titles when addressing the person.
For example, if the name of the general manager of the company is Prof. Ing. Jaroslav Novák, DrSc., he should be addressed as ‘Mr. General Manager’ rather than ‘Mr. Professor’. The use of academic titles in the business environment, for example Professor (Prof.), Docent (Doc.), Doctor of Science (Dr Sc.), raises the level of respect for the individual (especially within the older generation).
In small and medium sized companies, they do not put too much emphasis on positional titles; they prefer to use academic titles. Older managers are used to calling each other with their titles, but the younger generation prefer to be addressed by their surname. In a business meeting held in English, both Slovak and foreign partners will follow the English norm, i.e. Mr. Novak for a man, Mrs. Nováková for a woman, or Ms. for a younger woman. In the Slovak language, the surname for man and woman varies according to grammatical rules. For women you would add ‘ová’ or ‘á’ to the end of the name i.e. Mr. Novák becomes Mrs. or Ms. Nováková. This naming convention is the thing that confuses most foreigners when they are communicating with their Slovak partners, because it does not translate into an English way of thinking. In the Slovak language, the postpositions of ‘ová’ or ‘á’ are used only for surnames when addressing women.
Do you want to learn more about Slovakia?