You Want to Send Me Where?
You’ve traveled to Europe for vacation, but rarely elsewhere for work. Then the “dreaded” call comes in, your boss wants you jet off to a foreign capital you cannot pronounce, let alone know where it is. Now you wonder how you will prepare for the trip and where your passport is.
So how do you get comfortable (or at least appear to be comfortable) in the global arena?
Some think that to be a global citizen, one has to have had international experience from an early age, but in actuality, many do not, yet they are able to develop a global interest, even passion. Becoming a global citizen is like becoming a scuba diver – you start studying, ask questions, dive in, adjust to different environments, and keep learning and practicing.
Even seasoned travelers have moments of anxiety, such as wondering if the taxi driver is really taking you to your destination. You make mistakes, and you keep learning. Traveling abroad is exciting but can also be scary. Some tips to help you be more comfortable and effective:
- Do research – learn something about the history, the people, the culture, and any issues you should be sensitive about
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Stay calm
- Try new things
- Interact with the local population in a friendly manner
- Avoid the “ugly” traps, such as speaking loudly in English to someone who doesn’t know English
- Don’t hide in your Western style hotel
But remember, if something just doesn’t feel right, then leave that situation, or don’t do it. Think twice about letting a stranger buy you a drink. It’s better to not do something and be safe than to put yourself in a potentially dicey situation.
Learning to become comfortable anywhere in the world, whether you are a tourist, a business person who travels, or an expatriate who lives abroad for years, is fun and rewarding. Some attributes you can develop that will help you succeed:
- Curiosity, open mindedness, and an eagerness to learn
- Respect and empathy for others that are different
- Adaptability and flexibility
- Risk taking and boldness
- Active listening and relationship building
- A sense of humor
An important thing to think about is the “tone” you set – regarding your attitude, what you write, and what you say. You represent your company and country whether you realize it or not. You need to be natural and collegial. Recognize if you do something wrong, apologize, if appropriate, or at least don’t do it again. While you may be apprehensive about traveling and your meetings, try to act calm about it. Go into a new culture with an open mind and attitude, don’t come across as negative, condescending, or apprehensive. Keep in mind – you don’t have to understand the language to be understood. Listen more than you talk to understand what’s said and what is left unsaid.
We all know that everywhere is unique, but that’s what makes traveling so exciting. You are now going to somewhere different where you can meet new people, see new things, and experience new foods. Take advantage of this opportunity.