Suddenly, I’m Going Abroad for Business

This Monday I learned I am going overseas in just over two weeks to teach business etiquette for ten days. Needless to say planning for the trip is in overdrive. Arranging this trip has reminded me of some of the necessary details in preparing for any overseas business trip:

Passport. Mine expired in May. I didn’t jump on renewing it until June. Now I’m very glad I didn’t procrastinate any further. Despite stories to the contrary, when I did renew, I paid slightly more for an expedited service and the passport did get back to me in two weeks. Still, check your passport and be proactive about getting it renewed. Don’t put it off like I did.

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Visa. Check carefully about any visa requirements for the country you are entering. When I went to Vietnam a few years ago, I had been told I could get a visa at the airport when I arrived. That was true, sort of. I could get a visa if I had a passport photo of myself. I didn’t. There were a number of people milling around including a man with a camera who, for a fee, would take my picture. I paid. He did. And about half an hour later my visa was approved. Lesson learned. Travel with a couple of extra passport photos, just in case.

Customs. Not what you have to pass through to get into a country, but rather the different ways people do things in different cultures. Regions of the world, countries, even locations within countries can have variations in customs. Take the time to learn about the customs of the country you are visiting. You can visit websites including the CIA and State Department websites as well as websites of the country you are visiting, and online travel websites such as Lonely Planet or Culturegrams. Pay particular attention to:

Dining etiquette. Familiarize yourself with which hand you use to eat and with different types of utensils. When not sure what to do, follow the lead of your host.

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Toasting customs. Find out who toasts first and if and when you offer a toast. Brush up on how to make a toast. In the moment remember, shorter is better. Learn the local word for “cheers” or “to your health”.

Greeting and introductions customs. In the USA everybody shakes hands, but overseas be particularly mindful with whom you initiate a handshake.

Attitude toward time. In some cultures being late is normal while in others it can ruin the chances of a deal.

Attire and appearance. Defer to the more formal. It’s much easier to dress it down than it is to dress it up.

Gifts for hosts. Gifts are an important part of overseas business interactions. Just be sure your hosts’ company doesn’t have a policy against receiving gifts. It would be embarrassing to offer a gift only to have it be refused.

Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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