I really enjoy spending time in other countries and have been blessed to be able to do it on a fairly regular basis. If there is one lesson I have learned, however, it is that when traveling international, understanding the customs and culture of the country you are visiting is extremely important. It can effect your whole travel experience and could make or break that next big business deal. So before you leave on that rendezvous to Paris or that business trip to Hong Kong DO YOUR HOMEWORK! Whether traveling for business or pleasure, be mindful of cultural differences by following a few tips.
- Research Before You Leave-Get a couple of books on the country you are visiting. Search on-line for stories from other travelers both good and bad (this might help you avoid a "horror" story of your own!)
- Know What Might Be Considered Offensive-Even simple gestures can be interpreted in many different ways. For example, in Asia if someone hands you a business card, treat it like gold. Take it with both hands and be very appreciative when receiving it.
- Be Aware of Body Language-Boundaries of personal space can vary widely from culture to culture, particularly between men and women. Whereas in Europe men and women may hug and kiss on the lips as a greeting, if traveling in Israel you should be aware that it is offensive for a women to even shake hands with an Orthodox Jewish man.
Keep in mind that you may not always get everything right and that’s OK. If there is one thing that I have found that transcends all cultural boundaries and is always taken the right way it’s a SMILE! A smile is interpreted the same no matter where you go. Do your homework before you leave and always be ready to give someone a warm smile…your next international trip may just be your best!