How do guides or clients hold their
silverware or chopsticks? How are others greeted? You can learn a lot about a
culture just by viewing the world
through a receptive pair of eyes.
Think Before You Speak
When people don’t share the same language, lines of communication can
weaken and misunderstandings are apt
to take place. Translations are worth
their weight in gold in business negotiations. If you use an interpreter to communicate with a person from another
country, look and speak directly to that
client and not at the interpreter.
Every time I speak in China, I’m provided with an interpreter. If I’m asked to
present for one hour, I know that I must
cut my speech in half to allow enough
time for the interpreter to do his or her
job and interpret what I say. Speak
slowly and remember that some jokes or
slang expressions don’t translate well.
Most of us know it’s better to stay away
from controversial subjects, like politics
or religion, unless someone in the group
brings up the topic.
If you don’t know much about the
subject matter, or you’d rather not
comment, you can say something like,
“I’m not up to speed on that subject,
but I’m interested in knowing your
thoughts.” Or you can choose to give
your best advice and then change the
Research, Research, Research
When you visit a client or colleague in
another country, do a little research
ahead of time regarding cultures and
business practices. Even actions as sim-
ple as a handshake, nodding or fre-
quency and intensity of eye contact, can
differ from culture to culture. Visit the
country’s website, go to TripAdvisor to
find out some of the popular tourist
destinations, and ask your friends and
followers on social media to share their
Find out your group’s learning style
before your give your speech. For
example, if they like humor, inject
humorous videos into your presentation. Also, just as you would do on
your own domestic soil, if you want to
win friends and influence people, be
authentic. Be yourself.
Most of my international audiences
don’t always remember my etiquette
content, but they always remember my
stories, especially those involving my
pets and family members.
Appreciate the Differences
Be careful not to compare the living
standards of other countries to those of
your own as this could create an immediate barrier. Try to avoid making comparisons and negative comments, even
when you think no one is listening.
Remember, those around you may
speak or understand English as well.
If you have time, try to go outside
the glamorous areas of a city and see
other areas, especially local neighborhoods you’d not otherwise see. Be a
good sport and welcome the chance to
try local foods and avoid those familiar
fast-food restaurants that you frequent
in your own country. In my travels, I’ve
tried tree fungus, chicken feet and
other local delicacies. I may not be
fond of everything I eat, but I do try
everything to both be a gracious guest
and avoid insulting my hosts.
If you’re really lucky, you might get
invited to someone’s home for a meal.
When I was in Sydney, Australia, several years ago, I had the privilege of
having dinner with a colleague and her
husband in their home. Her husband
prepared salmon for the main course
and served apple pie for dessert. As he
served it to me he said proudly, “You
are the first American to have dinner in
July / August 2017 | SPEAKER | 23
our home!” That unique experience
made the trip unforgettable.
Having said that, eat and drink cau-
tiously. I’ll never forget the time I suf-
fered a bout of food poisoning in
Beijing after eating chicken korma at a
hotel restaurant. I was in bed for three
days and it nearly ruined my vacation.
Always carry antibiotics and stomach
medication in case you start to feel sick.
Also, drink bottled water and carry a
stash of nuts and protein bars to stave
off hunger when you are sightseeing.
Regardless of your chosen location,
these tips can make your international
trip easier. The more you plan before
you leave, the better prepared you will
be once you arrive. And that is the key
to a successful journey abroad.
Jacqueline Whitmore, CSP, is an
international etiquette expert. She
speaks on communication, networking,
spouse programs, image, self-esteem,
persuasion and influencing. Go to
Selfie of Whitmore and some of
her students in Shanghai, China.