Traveling abroad for business creates many opportunities: personally and professionally. While it’s exciting to go somewhere new, meet new people and share your ideas, it’s also important to be mindful of cultural differences and customs that can ruin business relationships before they’ve had a chance to fully bloom.
Before traveling, plan. Check and confirm your schedule. Confirm meetings: their time and their location. Thoroughly go over your plans as well as your needs. Will you need an interpreter? Equipment? Transportation? Solidifying these details before leaving home will bring give you peace and confidence about being in a new place. It will also give your host time to prepare for your arrival and clear up any misunderstandings prior to arriving.
Research and study the culture in the country that you’re visiting. Practice their greeting rituals, learn key words of the language spoken there. Learn how they use business cards and how they’re handed out. If necessary, prepare business cards in the appropriate language ahead of time. Make sure yourself aware of whether or not giving gifts is a standard or integral part of their business culture.
It’s important to be mindful and intentionally considerate when traveling abroad for work. Be polite. Use titles, last names and academic titles. Shake hands and don’t forget to smile. Dress conservatively and be aware of your body language. Although you want to make sure not to offend, you also don’t want to be easily offended. Don’t take everything personal. It is possible that you may be pushed, shoved or even, in your opinion, insulted. Different does not mean bad, mean or wrong. A great piece of advice: Take everything in within context.
Your way and your ideas are not the only possibilities and your solutions are not necessarily always better. Make sure you listen and observe. Forming successful relationships will overseas help you become a greater asset to your company—and any company—and bring you one step closer to being a global citizen.