Increase your Overseas Travel IQ


            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 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.

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About vseitz

Marketing Professor at California State University, San Bernardino and author of "I Don't Wear A Suit."

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