Different countries? Different cultures!

Can you imagine that you come in a country for the first time without decently informing you on beforehand about the habits of that country?
Well, I had that experience with a colleague with whom I visited Japan.
When visiting a company in Japan it is very common that you have to take off your shoes at the entrance and change them for slippers that are mostly open at the front.
If this habit would have been known I am sure that you never visit a company in Japan without first checking the status of your socks.

Wikipedia is a very good source to learn about specifics of a country, this is what we call culture. It also gives you good information about demographics, food and e.g. the tip system.

In Japan for instance they are not used receiving tips, you just pay what is on the bill. You can imagine how surprised the taxi driver was when he received a tip of 20% from my US colleague who assumed that the tip system was the same as in the US.

Two nice examples showing you how important is it to inform you as good as possible about the culture and habits of the country you are visiting.

Our company is in the fortunate position that our products are popular all over the world. The pleasant consequence of this is that it’s necessary to travel to many countries and continents to support existing customers and to appoint new customers in countries where our products are not yet available.

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Eating with chopsticks in Japan.

From our EMEA entity, located in Belgium, we are looking after Europe, Middle-East, Africa and a part of Asia. This geographically area is very extensive and the culture not just varies from continent to continent but also from country to country and sometimes we even have to deal with different cultures in the same country. No need to say that this makes it all very challenging and requires a very careful preparation before starting the travel to another place.

What exactly is culture?

Let me first say that I want to share some experiences about national cultures and not about corporate cultures although that also can make your professional life interesting.
All of you who work in a company will have to deal with a company culture.

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Training in South-Korea.

There are many definitions of culture. I feel that the below descriptions explain best what I want to share with you in this blog.

“Culture is the learned and shared behavior of a community of interacting human beings”

“Culture is the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one category of people from another.”

Charracteristics of culture:

  1. culture is learned (behavior, language)
  2. culture is shared by a group of people
  3. culture is cumulative
  4. cultures change
  5. culture is dynamic
  6. culture is ideational
  7. culture is diverse
  8. culture gives us a range of permissible behavior patterns

The above will give you some idea what culture is and why it is “especially” in business so important to take this into account when visiting countries and people.

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Meeting in Nairobi, enjoying a local beer.

When you are in sales and have to sell your products in other geographical areas to people who don’t share your standards, values and culture, it is an absolute must that you inform yourself before you go there. There are many sources where you can find information how to approach people and how to behave in a culture that is different from yours.

Some derivatives of culture are the way you present yourself, how you dress, how you hand over your business card, what are the eating habits, do you need to bring presents or do you have to avoid this, who serves the drinks and to whom first and many other seemingly unimportant things but all of these can make the difference between succeeding or not succeeding!

Just keep in mind that also you want to be treated in the way you are used to and feel most comfortable with. This is the same for those who you visit.

I have the privilege to regularly travel to other parts of the world and always prepare myself seriously and in a way that reduces the chance coming in unforeseen situations. This is very much appreciated by your interlocutor(s) and shows them that they are taken serious.

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Many of you spend their holidays abroad. Although apparently less important than going on a business trip, I recommend that you also deepen yourself in the habits and culture of the country you are visiting.
By spending some time in doing this you will have fun whilst preparing your travel, you will feel much more comfortable and will face less unexpected surprises.

I wish you all a great, relaxing and sunny summer period, wherever you may go!


Erik WiegmFeatured imagean’s career in the Sign and Engraving industry started over 30 years ago. With experience in signage and personalization for many years, in 2005 Erik got involved in sublimation. In 2011 Universal Woods established its own affiliate in Belgium of which Erik became Managing Director. Together with a dedicated team he successfully worked on further expanding the Unisub brand in the EMEA region and bringing ChromaLuxe to the market.
You can contact Erik at erikw@chromaluxe.com.

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MD Erik Wiegman: Now it’s my turn.

When Carolyn shared her plans with me to start a blog I first had some doubts. My first question was how a blog can contribute to help you growing your business.

Now we are a couple of months later and I can tell you that we have received multiple positive reactions from many of you, telling us that the information we have provided did enable you to look for new opportunities to expand and grow your business.

This is very encouraging and I want to thank Carolyn, Steven and Charles for their 3-weekly contributions. I also want to thank our guest bloggers for their interesting, positive and very helpful stories.

Now it’s my turn. Carolyn asked me to close each quarter with a blog sharing some information about our business. As so many things are going on, it fortunately is not difficult to pick a subject.

For my first blog I have opted to provide a quick overview of the period from the start of Universal Woods EMEA in July 2011 till today. Universal Woods is the company that manufactures the Unisub, ChromaLuxe, SwitchCase and Resindek brands.
I can tell you that this has been a very exciting period full with interesting adventures.
A journey I wouldn’t have missed!

Universal Woods with Headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky USA was till July 2011 represented in Europe by a distributor. As sublimation was growing very fast and required a stronger focus on the many new markets and applications, the decision was made to establish a European entity looking after the business in EMEA (Europe- Middle-East and Africa). From our EMEA office in Schelle, Belgium we also provide customer service and marketing support to Japan and South-Korea.

This was the best decision that could have been made, which has been proven by the fact that since the start in 2011 our business has grown significantly. In July 2011 we started with 3 people, today we employ 15 people. Due to this growth we already have moved one time and are planning for another move to larger premises early 2016.Featured image

Of course we have worked hard, but we also have a group of fantastic people to thank for our success! We are very grateful that we have so many dedicated and loyal partners, distributing and using our Unisub, ChromaLuxe and SwitchCase products.
Without all of you out there, making the efforts promoting, selling or and buying our products, we would have never been where we are today.

Our road to growth however didn’t come for granted. We also face challenges that we need to tackle and overcome.

One of the major challenges today is the volatility of the euro versus the dollar rate. Since the beginning of 2014 the euro has lost 28% of its value to the dollar.

As a company, we support our customers with all our capabilities to deal with this in their markets.
With all the investments we have made to further improve our quality and reducing the costs of our manufacturing processes, we are very confident that we will be able to protect the business that has been built up so carefully.

We are very busy preparing the Fespa which takes place in Cologne, Germany from May 18th till May 22nd.

We will have a +100m² booth and will show a lot of new materials and applications. You can find us in Hall 7, booth number K15.
At the Fespa we will also have our 2015 EMEA catalogue ready for you.Featured image

I hope to have the opportunity meeting many of you again, catching up and sharing thoughts and ideas how we can further grow our mutual business. If you have never visited our stand before, please make sure you do in Cologne so we can introduce you to the exciting world of sublimation.

Thank you all for your business and I sincerely hope working with you in the coming years and take advantage of the fast growing market for sublimation.

Please keep reading this blog, sharing it and reacting to it. As we all know: feedback is a gift! We highly value your input.


Erik WiegmFeatured imagean’s career in the Sign and Engraving industry started over 30 years ago. With experience in signage and personalization for many years, in 2005 Erik got involved in sublimation. In 2011 Universal Woods established its own affiliate in Belgium of which Erik became Managing Director. Together with a dedicated team he successfully worked on further expanding the Unisub brand in the EMEA region and bringing ChromaLuxe to the market.
You can contact Erik at erikw@chromaluxe.com.