How to Make a Great First Impression in a Global Environment

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In business, it’s important to make a great first impression in a global environment—and that means knowing what works and what doesn’t work in the country you are visiting.

A few years ago, I was in Buenos Aires teaching advancement strategies for women. I greeted them in Spanish and shook their hands. I thought I was acting appropriately. When the first one leaned in and pecked me on the cheek, I quickly remembered they don’t shake hands in Argentina. They kiss.

Thankfully, these women were understanding and forgiving. But, as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. In fact, research shows, people decide whether they like you within the first seven seconds. Seven seconds!

And room for blunders is much more significant when you’re meeting someone in a global context. What’s expected or accepted in one country could be a faux pas in another. For example, it’s entirely normal and even considered polite to chew with your mouth open in China. In Germany, it’s regarded as an abomination. These mistakes could have dire consequences when trying to form partnerships and close deals.

So, here are five ways to ensure you’re making a great first impression when doing business around the world:

1. Know how to say hello

Don’t make the mistake I made. Do research ahead of time to find out what’s appropriate when meeting someone for the first time. While you should greet people with a kiss on both cheeks in Brazil, kissing is a big no-no in India and Britain, for example. In Japan, you may want to bow, in the Middle East, men and women shouldn’t touch, in Europe, you’ll want to shake hands at least. You can always observe people as you travel to your destination to see what’s the norm.

2. Dress to blend in

Don’t dress to impress or standout. Instead, aim for subtle elegance. Wear dark or neutral colors—think Hugo Boss or Jill Sander—minimal accessories, and lose the bling. Classic, high-quality leather shoes, bags, and watches are always in style. Give yourself enough time to ensure You have done your hair and makeup properly, and your clothes are clean and pressed.

3. Use their names

When you use someone’s name, it shows that you’re interested in them and creates a sense of familiarity. Of course, in some countries and cultures, using names with titles is appropriate. For example, in Japan “san” is an important ending to names, showing utmost respect. In Germany, doctor titles and last names are considered most polite. Do your homework and if you’re unsure, always err on the side of formality.

4. Know how to eat

Knowing what to order, how to order, and how to eat it can be a sticking point for many traveling business people. Stick to what the locals recommend, try a few new things, and most of all mind your manners —or at least the local manners.

5. Drink away the day

It may be that your colleagues in China, Russia, or France expect you to go out drinking after work. Happy hours to all night partying are seen as a regular part of business in many countries. Decide how much you can handle without ruining the party.

When doing business in a global environment, being confident and warm is a universal way to make a good first impression. But studying up on cultural norms is a way to make it a lasting one. And, if you or your team needs coaching on how to improve your global business skills, contact me. 

A version of this post was first published on SmartBrief.

Image: Pexels

6 Ways to Make Business Travel Less Stressful

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As a global business consultant, I travel. A lot. And I have to admit; it wasn’t always easy or comfortable. Delayed and canceled flights. Long lines. Unhelpful airline staff. Jet lag. Breathing in recycled air. Sitting in one place for hours. The list of reasons goes on and on. But, I’m happy to report that today business travel is less stressful, and I even look forward to the many trips around the world that I’ll continue to make.

How did I come around? Lots of trial and error, and a few tips from other well-traveled individuals. Here are six ways you can make business travel less stressful.

1. Get cultured.

You’re in a new country–a land with interesting people and exotic sites. Don’t just stay in the hotel. Build some adventure into your trip. Spend time reading about the country, talk to colleagues who have been there before, and find out what to see or where to eat.

Spend time socializing with your colleagues who work there to build that bond and get a taste of the local culture.

Also, it’s a good idea to touch base with the consulate to ensure what precautions you may need to make to stay safe while abroad.

2. Pack right.

Most business travelers know what to wear to meetings, but they often forget about comfort and health. I’ve found a lightweight blanket, ear plugs, pillow, and eye mask to be a life-saver for catching some shut-eye on the plane.

Vitamins are also a must. They can go a long way in fortifying yourself against germs. I rely on vitamins and two supplements: COLD-FX and Traumeel.

Finally, save space for exercise clothes. Even if your schedule is jam-packed, just a thirty-minute workout can do wonders. It gets the blood flowing, your brain working, builds your immune system to fight colds and viruses, and makes you feel good.

3. Resist indulgence.

The trick to overcoming jetlag is resisting indulgence in food, drink, and sleep. Skip booze on the plane and drink water instead. Eat healthily, and get fresh air and exercise when you land. Finally, don’t fall into the “power nap” trap. Try to get onto the local schedule as soon as possible.

4. Maximize Google Translate.

This app can ensure most things don’t get lost in translation. Just be sure to bring a device that has WiFi (almost everywhere has it now), so you can tap into it to help give directions or express your wishes of where to go and what to see.

5. Keep it clean.

I have no shame when it comes to cleanliness. Bring wipes with you and wipe down airplane seats, hotel room door handles, remote controls, and any surface you’re unsure of. Bring hand sanitizer to avoid germs that could make you sick and miserable in a far-away country.

6. Take photos.

Photos are good for memories, but they also can come in handy when you need to remember where you came from and where you’re going. Take pictures with your phone of the metro stops so you know where to exit and get back on. Take a photo of your hotel, or grab a business card, so you know the address.

Traveling abroad doesn’t have to be a hassle. By employing these secrets to success, I feel confident you too can make your business travel less stressful this year.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Fancycrave from Pexels