Monday, December 13, 2010

Surprising Cultural Practices: Business Travel Edition

One of the best things about traveling is seeing and experiencing things you’d never witness in your hometown, from an unusual greeting to a strange dish of local treats. Of course, there’s a fine line between cultural curiosity and cultural ignorance. This rings especially true for women combining business and pleasure in one trip, since they’ll need to switch from tourist mode to business mode in a flash. To make the most of your business meetings--which will make time off so much sweeter--why not get your fill of surprising cultural practices from around the world?

Dress: What’s Acceptable?
It’s easy enough to pack a suitcase full of work-appropriate clothes for a trip to New York or San Francisco, but what about a stay in Japan and the Middle East? A smart pantsuit with a sharply-tailored blazer and a simple blouse might scream “take me seriously!” in the United States, but in countries like China, Russia, and India, women business travelers need to take things one step further. Cover the elbows and knees when meeting for business, and button that blouse all the way up to your neck. Save your brightly-colored separates for another day, too, because neutrals are expected on businesswomen--as are skirts instead of pants. You’ll need to pack accordingly to command respect, unless you like whirlwind shopping trips when you land.

Luxury Lodging List: Businesspeople should review the best hotels in Tokyo.

Networks: How to Make Them advises women travelers to prepare a network to ensure that business meetings go smoothly. When planning a business meeting in countries like China, Qatar, or Saudi Arabia, it’s recommended that you bring along an intermediary to bridge the gap between you and your hosts. In the Islamic Middle East, experts recommend that your host be male. If you know the right people in your field, you’ll have an easier time closing deals (and getting back to the fun of seeing the sights!).

Luxury Lodging List: If you're traveling to China, then luxury hotel recommendations for Beijing, Hong Kong, and Shanghai will guide you to the best exclusive complimentary perks available.

Respecting Your Hosts: The Nitty-Gritty
Of course, there are also the finer points to cross-cultural business meetings. Even if you’re traveling mostly for pleasure and just have a single meeting scheduled, there are a few tips that can help you ace your meeting. For example, when you’re offered beverages or snacks from your host, it’s imperative that you accept something. If you don’t and you are in Asia or the Middle East, you’ll be guilty of disrespecting your new business contacts.

It doesn’t hurt to bring gifts to a business meeting, although it’s recommended that you exchange presents at the end of your meeting instead of at the beginning. “Made in America” presents like books and art are smart things to bring, and if you have something scheduled in China or Japan, know that American whiskey is very much appreciated.

Luxury Lodging List: For those traveling to the Middle East, you might be interested in luxury hotel suggestions specific to Doha, Dubai, Amman, Jeddah, and Riyadh.

Combining a sightseeing trip with business meetings is typical these days, but it can be tricky if you’re going somewhere brand-new. Armed with this knowledge about faux pas, dress, and gifting, you can sign your contract and still have time for a leisurely meal in your far-off destination.

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