Exploring cultures, countries and comfort zones
Doing Business in Asia
Not everybody likes Asia. It’s too foreign, noisy or crowded for some people. But for others, Asia gets in your blood. If you live in Europe or the Americas,
then Asia is truly exotic. It is very exciting,
especially if it’s your first business trip.
I travel to Asia frequently and would
like to share some important information for speakers who have an itch to
work where they can emphatically say,
“We’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Asia Is Not One Country
Asia is a continent, comprised of multiple countries, cultures and languages.
The Chinese people speak 26 different languages with hundreds of dialects.
But, have no fear: Most Asian business
people speak English as a second language. Some speak British English, and
others speak American English.
While many have been studying English
since childhood, do not assume they
comprehend your English. There may be
a few who are fluent in English and you
will be tempted be to talk to them when
you are offstage. Then, you’ll present as
if everyone speaks like that.
Speak slowly, use smaller words and
avoid slang. Allow time for the audience to comprehend what you’ve said.
A PowerPoint® presentation rich in
graphics can increase your audience’s
comprehension. Ask your local contact
person what is absolutely essential that
your audience understands. Go for
that, and avoid any extra content. If
you sound like you broadcast for CNN,
you’ll be easiest to understand because
many Asians have grown up with CNN.
Check Your Visa
Every country has its own visa requirements. A U.S. passport will grant you
entry into most Asian countries, but not
India. If you go somewhere requiring a
visa, get a multiple entry. Search requirements online and with airlines.
Determine Your Compensation
Ascertain how you will be paid. Many
companies have dollar, Euro and local
currency bank accounts, so paying you
in your local currency is fairly easy.
Learn tax requirements. My contract
states that my fees are net of taxes. You
need to be sensitive about taxes, because
a client may have to pay a sizable tax on
you—an amount that could represent
their entire profit.
Research the climate of your destination
country before you pack. Korea, Japan
and Northern China are very cold in
the winter. Thailand has three seasons:
hot, hotter and hottest. If you pack thick
woolens for a trip to Southeast Asia,
you’ll be overdressed. If you do not have
the right attire, you can buy anything in
Asia. Chances are it was made there.
Don’t Be a Know-it-All
Asians are very interested in learning about
the world, but they picture themselves
differently than you do. Link your con-
versation to their reality. Recently, some
young Chinese were shown a picture of a
man stopping a tank in Beijing, the iconic
image of the Tiananmen uprising. This
group had never seen that picture because
it’s censored in China.
Asians Are Unique
Expect Asians to be quite different from
each other, with different races speaking
different languages, imbued with distinct
cultures. Filipinos are very friendly. Hong
Kong Chinese tend to be more direct
and blunt. Do not make the assumption
that because you’ve worked in one Asian
country that you know how to work in all
Janelle Barlow, PhD, CSP, is president-elect of the Global Speakers Federation (GSF). She co-authored two bestselling books, Emotional
Value and A Complaint Is a Gift, which is
available in 14 foreign languages. Over
100,000 people worldwide have attended
her speeches and training programs. Contact
her at JaBarlow@tmis.com.