I’ve been lucky enough to travel internationally for work several times in my life, and each time I do, I learn invaluable lessons in and outside of business. I’ve worked in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and most recently, Southeast Asia.
Over the past month, I’ve been based out of Singapore as we help one of our clients expand their affiliate program globally. During this time, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with partners from all over the Asian Pacific region. Here are a few things I’ve learned while on this incredible journey:
1. Bring Your Business Cards
With technology taking over so many pieces of our lives, I found the importance placed on exchanging business cards surprising. In every single meeting I attended, the first order of business was to immediately exchange business cards, sometimes before even sitting down. Keep your business cards easily accessible and make sure you have enough for everyone at the table.
2. Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings
In an area of the world with so many different cultures and languages, having face-to-face meetings is highly valued and is immensely helpful for building strong relationships with business partners. Whenever you can, suggest a face-to-face meeting in the office, coffee shop, or favorite lunch place.
3. Call Instead of Email
When creating a new partnership or discussing a proposal for the first time, it’s best to hop on a call as soon as possible instead of relying on email communication. This will help build a strong foundation for the partnership as well as speed up the process of getting started. These days, everybody has Skype, so if you don’t have the app yet, be sure to download it before you go.
4. Develop a Process for Translation
While most people in the APAC region speak English, it’s helpful to have some translation options readily available. When you’re meeting with someone who’s first language isn’t English, try to loop in a colleague who speaks the language. If your sending business emails to non-English speaking countries, find an online translation service that does human translations.
5. Be Punctual
No matter where you are in the world, it is important to be on time for meetings. Asian cultures, however, tend to place even more value on punctuality than Westerners. In some cases, they will even consider it an insult if you do not show up on time. Be mindful of this and plan to show up at least 15 minutes early for any business you are conducting in this region.
If you are given the opportunity to travel internationally for work – especially to Southeast Asia – consider yourself quite fortunate. It’s an amazing country and an incredible learning experience. As long as you familiarize yourself with common business etiquette and remain respectful, you will find much success in this region.