UX designer Jenny Shen recently has been featured on the Scott Hanselman’s podcast with her work on UX design across different cultures.
She’s published a two-part summary of her experiences with cross-cultural design and internationalization (i18n) and localization (l10n) of websites and applications:
These articles shed light on how distributing an application or publishing a website in another country not only requires translating the content and labels of UI elements but also has to take cultural differences and preferences into account.
She cites the work of professor Geert Hofstede, according to whom cultures differ along dimensions such as individualism, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. She gives gives examples on how this not only concerns cultures as obviously distinct as for example the US and China but also superficially similar but subtly different cultures such as the Dutch and the German one.
Even when only considering translation aspects such as idiomaticity and a propensity of a particular language to form smaller or larger words (see analytic vs synthetic languages) have to be considered in order to make your product understandable and usable.