Every graduate yearn towards a jet setter lifestyle as they take their work regional. Inevitably, the lure of luxury air travel and posh hotels will be too too great to resist and most would jump at any opportunity to fly. However, save for the lucky few, with great power(travel) comes with great responsibility. The illusion of enjoyment soon gives way to confusion of international work culture, getting lost in cities, language barrier and never ending work. I have some great tips from years of regional travel experience which will makes things easier for you.
Most corporate travels would require you to book through an agent such as CWT , Egencia or via the company’s secretary. In certain cases where the company allows you to book air tickets or pay for hotel through your own credit card, do so. These will allow you to chalk up credit card rewards for you. Stick to the same airline and hotel group such as Hyatt , SPG will allow you to chalk up loyalty points to exchange for free lodging on your next holiday. I have had quite a number of free air travel and lodging from my travels.
Making sure that you have an international credit card such a Citibank,it is good so you can withdraw cash overseas without the transaction fees. Doing a good estimate of how much local currency you need so you have enough local currency for transport and food.
A google sheet and google drive will be your life savior. Build all your meetings into a google sheet. Save all your travel documents(hotel booking, air tickets,visas, travel insurance) onto google drive. Enable all to be accessible via offline mode so you can access them even without internet connection. For the meeting sheets, have contact names, company, address in english and local language and contact number all documented in. The local addresses in local language will be really useful when you are trying to catch a taxi to your destination as drivers in many countries do not understand English. Send your contact a meeting invite with a 1 day advance reminder so your contact will remember to meet you. In the meeting invite, also specify contact numbers of yourself and your contact so when you need directions, you can just call him at a few taps assuming you have your calendar synced to your phone. It will also be good to plan all your meetings in an area on one day and another area on different day so you avoid travelling back and fourth areas.
One might think taxi, grab or uber is the fastest way to get around but that is not true. In certain countries where subways are available, you can take them to avoid getting stuck in traffic and all the unnecessary stress resulting from it. I personally like to taxi to the nearest subway and get to the nearest subway station of my next meeting before hopping onto a taxi again, In certain cities such as Seoul and Tokyo, this will you plenty of time. For cities like Jakarta and Beijing, you will have to plan plenty of buffer time between meetings you can will not run late.
Understanding a local culture is essential to doing business and avoid any awkward embarrassments. Courtesy, punctuality and respect is expected of all cultures but not all are equal. A few unique cultures are as follows:
Japan – Being on time is an absolute must and ending the meeting on time as well. However, if your meeting starts at 3pm, it is considered rude to arrive at 2.45pm as you are considered rushing them into a meeting. Arriving at 2.55pm will be optimal.
Indonesia and India – Traffic conditions in these countries are horrendously unpredictable so it is okie for you to be late or cancel the meetings. Unfortunately the same is also true both ways so your contacts might also be late or cancel on you so don’t take it to heart. It is nothing personal, just the traffic.
For Islamic counties – For men only. For ladies without headscarf, it is okie to stretch out your hand to offer a handshake. For ladies with headscarf, do not stretch out your hand as they might have reservations on shaking another man’s hand. Instead greet them with a smile right hand palm to your chest and see if they offer their hand for a handshake.
For Japan and South Korea – Men attending meetings are expected to be suited as they will also suit up even in summer.
Many are very tempted to take down every single point the contact makes and compile all the notes at the end of the business trip. This is in fact bad practice. Ironically, the more you write, the less the contact will be willing to say as it is just a natural psychological reaction. The key is to avoid taking many notes and only write key numbers or points down, maximize eye contact and piece each meeting note together after each meeting by writing out the full summary based on your few key points. You will have general administration such as expense and meeting reports best compiled on a daily basis to avoid spending time recalling the details.
With that, I hope you have greater confidence in your next travel and as they say, the world is your oyster! Feel free to drop me a note if you have more points to add or anything you disagree!