Cultural Considerations in the Global Real Estate Landscape

Wherever you're working, it's essential to think globally. It might be easy to assume that what is the norm in one region or country holds true in another place. This couldn't be further from the truth, and it's critical to do your research before embarking on global real estate transactions. The topics we could cover here are endless, but we've harnessed some important ones to highlight what you need to think about when doing business across borders. Demonstrating cultural awareness, inclusivity and professionalism will give you a competitive advantage

Pro tip: Start a digital file and update it regularly with your region- specific information. Add to this as you learn more about local customs!

Religious and Cultural Observations

Navigating religious and cultural holidays is a must, and it can impact everything from scheduling, to mealtimes, to bank and office closures. Here are some more detailed aspects of holidays to be aware of and some actionable items for you to keep in mind!

Be aware of significant holidays—Make a calendar noting major religious and cultural holidays in your region. These include holy days for Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Orthodox Christianity, as well as national/cultural celebrations. Be sure to make festive wishes inclusive and appropriate for your area.

Check whether closures are mandatoryFor some holidays, business closures are legally mandated, while others are optional. Check regulations regarding real estate transactions around these dates. Directly notify all real estate partners about any closures or delays.

Schedule showings and meetings cautiously—Do your research before scheduling anything to make sure there is demand and that you're not scheduling either on a holiday or in the buildup to or immediately after a holiday.

Adjust timelines as needed—Leave ample lead time when anything must be signed around a major holiday closure.


Marketing real estate globally requires extra cultural awareness and sensitivity. Below are good places to start to ensure you are fully prepared to market yourself and send the right message!

Research thoroughly—Learn about cultural norms, attitudes, taboos, and even what certain colors mean. Never assume you know something!

Localize content—Translate listings and marketing materials into the local language. Use region-specific platforms. Have native speakers review translations.

Understand local symbolism—Learn whether certain numbers, directions, color combinations, or spatial arrangements have good or bad cultural connotations.

Know the common lifestyles—Does this country or region have a lot of multigenerational families? Single business people? Single families? Know your area and market.

Double-check creativity—Have an idea for a new marketing campaign? Have a local colleague provide input to spot potential insensitive content.

Keep learning—Continually educate yourself on evolving nuances in global markets as attitudes and technology change.


Tipping norms differ around the world, so, as always, do your research before embarking on transactions!

Know tipping customs—Research whether tipping is standard, optional, or even offensive in your markets. Check average gratuity rates where tips are expected. Show discretion when tipping in cultures where obvious tipping could be frowned upon, or—worse yet—be misconstrued as bribes.

Carry local currency—When tipping is customary, have a supply of small denomination bills on hand. Verify reliable channels for access to cash when traveling.

Pro tip: When in doubt, discreetly ask a local colleague about standard tipping practices so that you're conforming to the norms in that area!

Debt and Mortgage Structures

Mortgage structures and attitudes to debt vary widely around the world. Here is some advice on how to find your footing in a new region or country.

Research the norms and regulations—Learn about cultural beliefs around debt, credit, loans, and home financing in your target region. Make sure you understand borrowing restrictions, foreign ownership policies, and residency requirements upfront.

Set expectations for clients—Clients need to understand the arena they are working in. Explain the financing terrain when it comes to standard mortgage terms, credit scores, interest rates, and payment structures in your region.

Address taboos—For example, if debt avoidance is a cultural norm, explore creative alternative financing routes like all-cash offers, private lenders, or family loans that may be more comfortable.

Bridge communication—Work with interpreters or bilingual colleagues who can help accurately convey financing details and demystify the process for clients so that you stay on the same page.

Localize processes and documents where possible— Offer documents, applications, instructions, and signage in clients' preferred languages to build trust and transparency. It is highly recommended that you use a professional translator rather than AI or a program like ChatGPT. You want to make sure all nuances and vocabulary are accurate!

Maintain privacy—Respect cultural attitudes that may consider finances a private matter. Only gather essential details. And remember, in many countries, personal data is legally protected, so do your research!

Pro tip: Check the U.S. embassy website of your global location to see which resources they recommend for purchasing real estate. This can be a helpful starting point!

Nonverbal Communications

Here are some points to think about to know how to handle nonverbal communications. These may not apply to all your regions, but it's better to be aware of them and make adjustments as needed.

Mind personal space—Determine appropriate interpersonal distances for conversations in different cultures. Be judicious with handshakes or other tactile contact, considering cultural comfort levels.

Determine appropriate eye contact—In some Western cultures, direct eye contact conveys trustworthiness, while in parts of Asia intermittent eye contact shows politeness and deference. Calibrate accordingly.

Slow down your speech—Even if you're fluent in the language, speak moderately and slowly, rather than rushing through points, so that international clients fully understand terms.

Clarify meanings—Because body language can be culturally specific, politely ask for clarifications if needed. Remember, don't assume!


Knowing how residents, travelers, and commuters get around in any given location is essential. Having a firm grasp on transportation networks can help you serve your clients' needs.

Research commute times—Note average commute lengths to downtowns or business hubs from listings. Highlight nearby public transit where relevant.

Understand public transit—Does your client want to commute by public transport? Do they own a car? Study city maps and local bus, train, and tram routes. Download transit apps and have small bills for fares ready if you're traveling yourself.

Look up parking norms—Communicate typical area parking availability. Areas that rely on cars versus public transit or walking can vary greatly, so understanding parking can be critical.

Highlight accessibility—Note proximity to airports, train stations, and main highways that may appeal to globetrotting buyers. Confirm transit routes and times to manage expectations.

Ask a trusted colleague—Are you unsure of what you don't know? Are there unwritten rules you need to be aware of? For example, do you need to adjust conversational style or keep to trusted topics for privacy norms when spending long car rides with global clients? Checking with a trusted source can save you lots of stress and time!


Your safety and the safety of all involved in your global real estate transactions are of utmost importance. Here are a few things you can do to help make sure you're as safe as possible throughout the process.

Research neighborhoods—Understand relative crime rates and safety dynamics across areas that clients are considering.

Check references—Confirm licenses, credentials, and reputations of builders, developers, and property managers you plan to collaborate with.

Have a local point person—Insider knowledge from a local person will always be better than what you find online. A local person can help you steer clear of unsafe areas, transactions, and financial traps.

Know emergency services—Note how to easily reach local police and medical help, including any language translation needs.

Follow travel advisories—Do you register in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program with the U.S. consulate or embassy when you travel? This is important for your safety, so be sure to build in time to do this. Many embassies and airports publish travel advisories, news alerts, health warnings, and any emerging security threats. Take these into consideration when traveling or advising clients.


About Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives in Real Estate is a resource for global professionals, aimed at helping them globalize their local markets. Produced bi-monthly, this newsletter serves as a how-to guide and is full of useful and actionable tips. A free subscription is given to all Certified International Property Specialists (CIPS) designees.

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