One of the many benefits of being a FACT Inspector is traveling internationally. FACT inspectors are often sent to a region of the world where the culture is much different than the inspector’s. What is considered appropriate behavior in one culture may be inappropriate in another one.
Be aware of the cultural variations that exist by learning about the people and the regions of the world you are visiting. It is helpful to acquaint yourself in advance with the country’s basic customs and professional practices before the inspection. Be aware of regulations that may differ from your country. If regulations appear to conflict with FACT Standards, write a note in the checklist and on the report.
Understanding the values, expectations, and beliefs that drive behaviors in different cultures should guide your actions towards an individual, not direct them. For example, gifts are highly valued in Chinese culture and are considered a sign of respect and care. Although such offers of hospitality are appreciated, inspectors are discouraged from accepting gifts and other invitations of entertainment from any applicant.
Another example is the concept of time. Arriving to the inspection at the scheduled time is consider late in Japan and Germany. It is expected that you arrive at least ten minutes early to ensure the inspection can start on time. Doing otherwise may be construed as rude and unprofessional.
Strong communication is the most important tool you have during an inspection. Verbal and non-verbal communication help obtain needed information, diffuse tension, and establish rapport. Knowing how these tend to vary from culture to culture can help you recognize different communication styles and understand and communicate effectively.
If the primary language of the applicant is not English, work with the FACT Accreditation Office and with the applicant to obtain translations of essential documents and to ensure that an adequate number of interpreters will be available at the time of the inspection.