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Why is it so hard to find a kettle in Spain?

Scrolling through Linkedin last week I saw a post that reminded me of something that happened when I first arrived in Spain 15 years ago: it took me months to find a kettle!

I was living in a fairly isolated city, but a busy one with a population of 150 thousand, and even so it just wasn’t an easy feat. (I also lived in a flat with no oven for 3 years, something which was a lot easier to manage!)

Things we forget

When we start to deal with other cultures or countries we can easily forget or overlook things that we take for granted and which are commonplace. Preparation is key, and a set of fresh eyes and external support can be a godsend for any new project.

Do you do marketing for clients who have an international audience?

And if you do, have you thought about the words you use in the marketing content? You should.

Writing in short sentences and using shorter words isn’t always better.

English is a minefield!

While English is a global language in itself and a lingua franca for many, we often ignore how complex it is and how many variants of English exist.

  • Off the top of your head, how many countries can you name where English is an official or co-official language?

  • Which type of English do you use? British? American? Australian? Canadian?

  • Do you speak to clients who use English every day but might be using a variant, like Singlish or Nigerian Pidgin?

Knowing about the language we use and the language our clients use isn’t only recognising if it’s English or not, but recognising what type of English. It’s then knowing how to make ourselves understood as clearly as possible.

A quick starter's guide to thinking internationally

To get you started, think:

  1. do you know if it’s better to say “fill in this form to enter the competition” or “complete this form to enter the competition”? And would you know why? (If you do, please leave comments or guesses below!)

  2. do you know how formally or informally to present the information to your client?

  3. do you know if there are any colours you should try to include, or any to avoid?

  4. do you know if your target market will recognise the images and cultural references that you’ve included?

  5. do you know which order to present the information when creating content for your target market? Would you start with theory and background information, or get right to the point?

  6. Would you include any information to show off your credentials, or would you consider this to be unimportant?

  7. have you had a conversation with your translator (if you’re using one) around their local knowledge and how well they can localise your text if they need to?

Last but not least

  • Non-native English speakers outnumber native speakers considerably. 2008 figures show there were 380 million native speakers to 700 million non-native speakers.

  • If you work internationally and in English, the majority of your clients won’t speak British English and won’t be native speakers of the language. Stop taking for granted that English is “international’. Learn to speak in their language!

And the kettles?

And why didn’t they have kettles readily available in Spain back then? Who knows! Most people heat water in a pan or some even put the mug in the microwave. Even now I know it’s not common to have a kettle in the house, but it’s easier to get hold of one than it was back then.

If anyone can tell me why they never caught on, or if this is something that happens in other countries too, I’d love to hear from you!


Want to hear more from me?

Sign up to my event on March 9 and find out more areas we need to consider and prepare for when we work with clients internationally.

Register for free here.

Link in with me on Linkedin.

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