Magazine article Work & Family Life

When the World Is Your Workplace

Magazine article Work & Family Life

When the World Is Your Workplace

Article excerpt

The international economy and global communications have made the world a smaller place. These days many of us are working with people in other countries. This often requires international travel, discussions through translators and correspondence with people whose first language is not English.

No matter where in the world you're headed or with whom you're doing business, here are some ideas to keep you on your best international business behavior.

For successful international travel Do your homework before you go. Just as we expect visitors to adapt to our customs, it's your job to adapt now. Look for culture-specific guidebooks. Talk to others who have already visited the country. Gain a sense of its general history, geography, major cities, main industries, popular sports, special cultural activities and famous athletes or performers.

Don't expect to do business the "American way." Be aware that many cultures are "relationship-oriented" while the U.S. approach is more "taskoriented." Don't be impatient. It takes time to build trust.

Be respectful of differences you encounter. Don't comment on or react negatively to customs you disagree with or find offensive. Be aware that it is considered rude to brag about or overly compare your own culture or customs.

Don't take it for granted that the person speaking English will always understand you. Speak slower, not louder.

Be aware of the nuances of nonverbal communication. For example, Americans are encouraged to look someone directly in the eye while speaking to that person, but in many cultures it's more respectful to look away. On the other hand, most Americans like to have plenty of space between them and another person when conversing. Try to prepare for these differences so they won't interfere with your ability to listen and understand.

Making small talk Figure out how much small talk is appropriate in the country you are visiting. In the United States, we usually get down to business after a few minutes, but in Mexico and Japan, for example, small talk can go on for much longer-even days. Just remember that it is part of establishing a business relationship. Talk on safe subjects. Avoid religion, politics and the highly personal, such as your love life. …

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