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Travelling abroad for work? Quick tips
6 'soft' skills you need for success
There are no foreign lands. It is only the traveller who is foreign." It is an apt statement by Robert Louis Stevenson. If you are flying abroad -- on work -- for the first time, relax. Yes, you are moving out of your motherland, but the other country has people just like you.
In Scared to interact with foreign clients? we tipped you off on how to communicate with your foreign counterparts and clients.
Next, we make a checklist of what you must know before making a business trip. A little homework and clear communication can lead to a fruitful journey.
Read about the culture and business etiquette
It is very important that you know about the country you are going to. We must realize that the business, as well as social culture, is very different as we move from the West to the East. Therefore, do read up about these aspects online or through books such as the Lonely Planet Guides. Any faux pas might create a bad impression, if you are ignorant about commonly followed norms. For example, if you are on business in China, it is considered rude to come to the point directly like you would do in the West, before making small talk.
The rules change all the time. A recently foiled terror attack in London, for instance, has led to a temporary ban on all hand baggage. The best thing to do is call your flight operator in advance to find out what you are allowed to carry. Some countries do not allow perishable food items on flights. Check with respective consulates in India before you fly. It is best to avoid an unpleasant entry into a new land. However, if you plan to cook, you can carry certain food items.
Dharti Avchar, a corporate trainer, advises, "Sugar and salt in America do not taste like the sugar and salt here. They are somehow bland, so it is better to carry packets from India. Also, if you intend to cook regularly, carry Indian masalas. You do get spices in Indian stores abroad, but they are rather expensive and you may have to buy them in bulk. For most of us who travel abroad for work, the idea is to save as much money as possible. You can carry dried pulses that can be grown abroad and had as breakfast or cooked with vegetables."
Before you go, contact colleagues or business associates in the country you are going to and try to memorize common terms such as 'Thank you', 'Sorry', 'Hello', 'How do I get to xyz place?' etc. This definitely creates a good impression on the locals and they will be willing to help. Also, if possible, carry a translation dictionary.
Gopal N, who works at the global operations helpdesk for a leading American insurance company, says, "If somebody harasses you, don't fight back or argue. Simply complain to the nearest authorities. Never carry any sharp objects or weapons. Also, always follow traffic rules, although you might take some time to get familiar with them. You will be in trouble if you are caught breaking rules in a foreign land."
If you intend to drive, get an international driving license before you leave India. Some countries do recognize Indian licenses for a short period but, if you are staying for long, an international license in essential.
From the security and legal perspective, it is important to register with your country's consulate in the place you are visiting. Do this as soon as possible after you land. The consulate may also help you contact other Indians if need be.
"Beware of pick pockets. Don't carry huge amounts of cash, but keep a decent amount every time you leave your house or hotel. Preferably, use cards or traveller's cheques," suggests Gopal. If you intend to use your Indian credit or debit card, check the charges before you leave India. You may be in for a shock if you realize later that you have to cough up an astronomical amount as surcharges.
"People used to bathing with a bucket and mug may be uncomfortable if only tubs and showers are available. So, carry a mug if you can't do without it. Also, for cooking, you may find it difficult to buy a rolling pin (belan) for making chapattis," says Avchar.
If you are travelling for work, understand the amenities available from your HR department or from colleagues abroad. If you are a student, contact seniors or alumni at the university to find out about the facilities.
"Always have help line numbers along with emergency contact details with you," warns Gopal. This comes in handy if you are stuck and need someone to rescue you. As a foreigner, the locals may be wary of helping a stranger.
You will be more comfortable with a new place if you know it well. Read local newspapers, look up the Internet for news about that country and talk to colleagues or friends for information. It is better to ask than to assume. At the same time, avoid talking about sensitive issues such as religion or politics with acquaintances.
It is necessary to carry a photo-identity, such as a passport or driving license, whenever you are venturing out in a foreign country. There are several times when you might be asked to furnish it.
The writer Clifton Fadiman sounded rather pessimistic when he said, "When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable."
There is no reason why you can't make yourself comfortable though, provided you know the right things at the right time.
Have you travelled abroad on work? Share your experiences, suggestions and tips.
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