The world has truly shrunk in size given email, air travel, and the influence of world economies on our homeland. Moreover, one in four Americans is either African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic-American. We live in a multicultural environment and business is global these days so it’s important that we are sensitive and respectful to people from different cultures and backgrounds as well as countries.
One of the reasons why the Japanese were so successful in business in the 70’s and 80’s was due to how they handled the people their met in the global community. Here some tips to help you be successful in today’s multicultural workplace or with international visitors.
· Get an understanding of the various different cultures that surround you. This will enhance your sensitivity and appreciation for the differences between cultures and better prepare you for the workplace and business.
· Have an open mind about people from different cultures and avoid stereotyping them one way or another. For example, all Asians are not the same: Thai people are very different from Vietnamese; and Chinese are very different from Japanese.
· If hosting international visitors whether they are staying at your home or at a hotel, make an impression by having a basket of fruit or flowers placed in their room. When choosing flowers, avoid white or yellow if your guests are Chinese or Middle Eastern. If dealing with Europeans, avoid chrysanthemums since they are linked with death.
· Consider helping your foreign guests when they are making arrangements to visit by recommending or handling restaurants, hotels, airports, and transportation accommodations.
· When someone visits you from another country, don’t assume that they will want to eat their country’s food during their stay. Rather, choose restaurants that have a continental menu that pleases most palates. Although we consider squid or sea urchin strange foods abroad, many foreigners consider corn on the cob, grits, and hot dogs strange. Other foods that considered strange include sweet potatoes, pumpkin and pecan pies, and marshmallows.
· If entertaining people who are Muslim or Jewish, depending on the extent that they follow the rules of their religion, operate from the standpoint that they are orthodox or conservative and follow their religious beliefs closely regarding food and other practices. For example, Muslims do not normally drink alcohol and they do not eat foods such as lobster, pigs, goats, and birds. Moreover, they don’t eat foods prepared with oils or other parts of these animals. Jews cannot have milk and meat in the same container. Further, meat and fowl must be kosher, which means it is prepared under religious guidelines.
· Also be aware that people from other parts of the world operate on a different meal plan compared to Americans. For most Americans the main meal is at night. For many countries abroad the main meal is around one with a light meal late in the evening such as 9 or 10 o’clock. Ask them how they want to schedule their meals.
· If dealing with business people from Latin America, Asia or the Middle East, include your family in selected activities outside business. Getting to know the family is part of building trust in the relationship and subsequently closing the deal. Compared to conducting business with other Americans, foreign business deals take more time and effort to allow the relationship to grow.
As a person that has spent the past 11 months in Romania and has traveled extensively to other countries in the world I want to share with you some tips on increasing your overseas travel IQ. In addition to traveling extensively, my father was in the military and we had the opportunity to live in Brazil for a total of three and a half years. So let me share with you some tips that will present you and the country in a positive light:
- Remember you are a guest in that country no matter how long or short your stay is. As a guest you honor the people and embrace the culture.
- In embracing the culture, focus on the positive rather than all the things that your country has that the one you’re in doesn’t.
- Although McDonald’s is everywhere, even in Romania (and their fries are the best), choose to try the foods of that country to expand your horizons. Heck you may find that the food is better than you thought and want the recipe!
- Be gracious with gifts when meeting with foreign clients, company representatives in that country and friends. In Romania, it is customary to bring flowers to a house and give them to the lady of the house. In business, women are perceived differently outside the US so with gifts, so give something impersonal after the deal is closed. For men, give the gift after the deal is closed, because in both cases it may be perceived as a bribe.
- Forget about all the bad things people tell you about a country before you go. That will bias your view. Before coming to Romania everyone told me about the gypsies and being robbed. I haven’t been bothered by either but in any big city whether in the Los Angeles, Paris, Bucharest, Cairo, or Brussels, people steal for a living so watch your things.
- If you just have to use the internet, you can find such cafes everywhere. Romania is hooked up and is even into DSL and cable. Whether in western Australia, Istanbul, Bucharest or Washington, DC internet café’s are everywhere and so you don’t have to demand to use someone else’s computer.
- Be patient. In many countries, life moves at a slower pace and is not as organized as what perhaps you’re used to. For example, when teaching in the states I know my schedule of classes a year in advance, when and where. In other countries it is not the same. As I was told “cool it” and enjoy smelling the roses. Meetings may not start on time and people may not care but if you are going to the United States meeting times are times to be “on time and prepared.”
- Learn how business is conducted in the country that you are going to. For example in many countries outside the United States, the prospective client will want to get to know you and develop trust with you. So the time factor is longer to get the deal. You will probably meet their family and friends so take your time. You want to have a good trust level too. In the United States, business is business but you also may be invited to a sporting or cultural event such as the opera, or theater.
- Business dress is business dress. Traditional suits are common for men and suits for women are a must. Leave the sexy stuff at home. For casual parties forget the jeans and wear twill trousers that are pressed or a twill skirt with the appropriate accessories.
- Visit cultural places during your stay. Museums, art galleries, churches, Abbeys, Mosques, and Temples have a history all their own.
- If you know in advance that you are going, check out the country either by buying books on the country or going on the internet. For Romania, consider checking out http://www.romanianweek.ro which tells about things in the country such as art and editorials. Frankly, before I went to Romania I didn’t know anything about the country except what we got on the news. The news doesn’t even touch the iceberg regarding what Romania is about.
- The whole point of going to another country, whether for business or pleasure, is to try something new so try new foods, new habits and learn about the people.
- Also, try to learn the language. If you are going for a few days, Berliz has a cassette and handbook that can get you used to the language. If you attempt at speaking the language they will love you and probably respond in English. If you are going for a longer stay such as six months, take a course at the local University or from a private tutor. It will help you in the long run to figure things out as you embrace your adventure.
- Although many countries have American and European hotels that are posh, experience some of the local hang outs. But sometimes it’s nice to go to these hotels when you’re feeling a bit homesick but try the local hangouts and nightclubs. You will find that most people just want to enjoy themselves just like you. Since I’ve discovered the Marriott in Bucharest, I occasionally like to go because it reminds me of home and at this point in the summer its air conditioned whereas my apartment isn’t.
- If you are put up in an apartment, as I was, like any city apartment you don’t get much. But if you’re staying awhile, decorate it the way you want and then you can sell it when you leave. Appreciate that you have a place to stay that maybe you don’t have to flip the bill for.
- If you have time, visit the countryside and the people there. I have had the opportunity to go to tiny villages and the network of people in the village is not by computer but by caring for one another. The drinking water came out from the community pipe but once it hit the trough, it was the animals which come in from the field about 19.00 or 7 pm during the summer. What an eye opener. I loved it!!
- Finally, know about the religion before you go. If you are going to a conservative Muslim country, don’t drink alcohol. In other places such as Romania you will be introduced to some of the best wine ever (no sulfites) and drinks such as Palinka (firewater). At least try it if you drink but don’t get drunk. That will only make you vulnerable to thieves and does not present your best side.
Planning your travels for this summer? Got a business trip around the corner? Here are some packing tips from Preview Media, Inc. (1996) that will surely make your trip more enjoyable.
- Never bring more than you can carry yourself.
- Make sure that the last items you pack are the first things you will need when you arrive at your destination.
- Make a checklist.
- Bring one or two color combinations that you can mix or match for the best results.
- Place heavier items on the bottom and things you’ll need right away, like pajamas and toothbrush, on top.
- Pack a collapsible lightweight bag if you plan to bring home more than you take.
- A full but not overstuffed suitcase helps to keep clothes wrinkle-free.
- Any unfilled spaces should be stuffed with tissue paper so that the contents will not slide.
- Luggage tags should be placed on the inside of your suitcase as well as outside. For the outside tag, your business address should be used to avoid a robbery at your home while you’re away.
- A copy of your itinerary taped to the inside of your suitcase will enable airline to locate you in the event of misrouted luggage.
- Select clothes that are washable and drip-dry.
- Keep two packing lists-one for short trips and one for long stays- inside your luggage.
- Take the packing list with you so you know what you have.
- When packing items that can wrinkle, close all buttons, zippers, and snaps.
- Fold each item along its natural creases.
- Drape each garment across the suitcase so that the ends hang over the side.
- Alternate putting the top of each garment on the right and left sides so that the thickness remains uniform. Next fold each items around the other, alternating the over hang from right and left sides. Your garments cushion each other, thus preventing wrinkles.
- Include a few plastic bags for dirty or damp clothes.
- Bring sentimental items to put on the night table next to the bed.
- When packing a hard-sided suitcase begin buy putting all heavy items like shoes and toiletry kits on the bottom near the hinges. Then roll the clothes that won’t wrinkle (i.e. sweaters, socks, T-shirts) and place them around heavier items. This prevent heavy items from sliding and wrinkling clothes when carrying the suitcase.
- Always have an additional small pouch packed with commonly needed items such as aspirin, bandages, or small sewing kit.
- Shoes should be placed in plastic bags to prevent them from soiling other clothes.
- Small, soft items such as socks and stocking may be used to stuff clothes that easily lose shape, like a man’s shirt collar.