Long plane rides lend plenty of time for reflection. On an 8-hour flight home from vacation this summer, I started thinking about how handy my business trip to-do list is, even for casual summer holidays like this one. Sometimes international travellers will head to the airport without thinking twice about how their destination might differ from their home country, or how their own customs and manners might fit in with another culture. In my opinion, it's always best to prepare before travelling abroad: just a little pre-voyage homework can ease your adjustment to a new place and will demonstrate respect for your host's nation and customs.
My Business Trip To-Do List
- Research local customs. Just a bit of background work on your host's country can give you an advantage with a potential partner or client: it will demonstrate that you are serious about the value of your business relationships and that you are respectful of their culture. Researching local customs and manners is perhaps most important; it can save you from many embarrassing blunders. Look up the procedures and differences in shaking hands, introductions and titles, dress codes, dining and table manners, body language, and appropriate arrival times.
- Research current affairs. Before your trip, follow the news regarding your destination country. It is helpful in preparing you for a different political climate or atmosphere, as well as for keeping up with dinner conversations with your hosts. A note of caution: avoid discussing anything too controversial - you don't want to jeopardize your business relationship with polemic small talk or dinner debates.
- Learn a few new words. Though you are most likely doing business in English, don't assume that you can get by everywhere with it. Learning a few key words or phrases in your destination's native tongue can help you out of a sticky situation - and again can show your hosts that you have invested time and effort into learning about their culture.
- Prepare a host gift. It is a kind gesture to offer your appreciation for your hosts by way of a gift. But first of all, make sure that it is acceptable - culturally and with company policy - for a business guest to give a gift. Once you have determined this, a small gift that represents your hometown or province is a nice way to share your culture as well. Make sure you investigate what is not appropriate: for example, in India the cow is considered sacred, so you would not want to give anything made from or with leather to an Indian host.
Just a few preparations before a business trip not only will make a good impression on your hosts, but also will make you feel more confident in yourself as you plan to navigate a wholly unfamiliar place. And this confidence could make all the difference in establishing that business partnership or sealing a successful deal!