Exploring culture, countries and comfort zones
You’re not in Kansas anymore
If you watch CNBC, Bloomberg
or read any business magazine,
you’ve probably heard or seen
the term BRIC, an acronym for
Brazil, Russia, India and China. Sooner
or later, you’ll probably be invited to
speak in one of these four emerging
economies, particularly if you’ve written a successful book.
While I don’t know much about Russia, India or China, I’ve organized
events in Brazil with U.S. speakers for
several years, and I’d like to offer some
advice if you’re ever invited down here
for a speaking engagement. You can call
them “Raul’s Rants” and you’ll soon
understand why since they’re all based
on things that actually happened.
1Avoid sports analogies, especially
about football (we really think football should be played with our feet).
And we don’t play baseball, we call it
“fat guys on steroids running around in
circles.” So phrases like “fourth down
and inches” or “it’s like being at the
bottom of the 9th with bases loaded”
mean absolutely nothing. Better to skip
the sports analogies and try to find
something your audience can relate to.
2Be careful with geographical generalizations or references. For example, “It’s like asking for directions in
New York, and you know how New
Yorkers are.” No, we don’t. We live in
3Mind your examples. I once heard a
speaker say that the Wright brothers
invented the airplane. This is a big no-no
in Brazil. Look up Santos Dumont on
Wikipedia. Dumont actually flew a plane
in Paris, instead of just gliding it down a
hill. Anyway, the speaker got booed, and
he was very surprised and annoyed by
the crowd reaction.
4Speak S-L-O-W-L-Y. I mean real
slowly, or you’ll drive the translators crazy. Besides, it takes some time
for the audience to process the information. I’ve seen this twice: A speaker tells
a joke. No one laughs. The speaker
looks puzzled, turns around and looks
for refuge in his slides. The crowd roars
with laughter. Surprised speaker jumps
and looks back, lost without a clue. It
was not “lost in translation,” there was
just a short delay.
5Learn about other cultures’ customs
and habits. When you’re visiting a
foreign country, relax and enjoy. Next
time you’re abroad, try these suggestions:
• Find out the national sport.
• Learn a new joke.
• Create a new, funny (or sad) story
that actually happened during the
trip. Ask about true leadership stories. Americans may be surprised by
this, but other countries actually do
have great leadership, motivational
and inspiring stories. Really, we do!
• Try a new fruit.
• Discover a new drink. (I recommend caipirinha, but only after
• Eat something you’ve never tasted.
• Discover a new singer, band or
This list makes you really aware of the
cultural differences, prepares you for
your speech and creates a stronger connection with the audience. It also will
help you enjoy the trip better and you’ll
learn something new about others and
Raul Candeloro edits VendaMais
(SellMore), Brazil’s leading sales and
marketing magazine. He’s also a speaker,
author and really believes that Santos
Dumont invented the
airplane and that baseball is boring, except
when the Red Sox’s
are playing. You can
contact him at raul@