Generally speaking, sessions at SLA are planned by the subject divisions. This morning we had an historic divergence. Three chapters, from Europe, Asia, and Australia/New Zealand, joined to present a program about working globally: multicultural business and social etiquette. SLA CEO Janice Lachance welcomed everybody, then we moved to the meat of the session. Each speaker contributed bits of knowledge about working in a culture and country other than your own. Some of this was familiar to me, but there were some other nuggets that I found valuable. Sue Edgar of Sue Hill Recruitment, stressed that knowing time zones and holidays is important. She had some funny vocabulary stories (do you wear trainers or sneakers? Are those thongs or flip-flops on your feet?). Davis McCaughhan, an Australian who’s worked in various Asian countries, now employed in Japan by McCann Worldgroup, recommended embracing stereotypes, learning the drinking culture, understanding religion and history and their place in life, and knowing the local team and its stars. No matter how long you live in another country, he cautioned, you’ll never be a local. Andrew Davidson, Bureau van Dijk, cautioned us to think about our position on politics (how to respond to a question about Taiwan when doing business in China) and corruption (do you bribe, how much do you bribe). Also understand how cultures use information.
Working in another country is not just about work. It’s about food, culture and manners.