As a long-term multicultural professional woman, I get asked by other women from time to time about what they should keep in mind when they travel abroad for business – either for short or long-term assignments. And then, recently a group of women business owners I am a part of asked me to speak on the topic. So, calling not only on my own knowledge and experience, but also drawing on that of my dynamic network of international female experts (thank you, ladies!), I came up with the following list of the top five things we women should do to ensure a successful trip.
Here they are:
- Understand as much as you can about the culture. Do it before you leave home and continue it as you arrive at your destination. In addition to history and art, other subjects to learn about are dress, gender relations and how things are done at the office. For example. in Muslim countries, dressing anything less than conservative would affect your credibility. And, when you’re in France, Italy, Japan, Morocco, and Australia, you’ll notice very different rules and expectations of women – particularly during negotiations. Being as familiar as you can with local customs – and especially business etiquette for women – before you get there will help cut down the number of faux pas you may make.
- Learn the language. And, if you just can’t muster the time for all of it, become skilled at at least a few key phrases like “good morning”, “thank you”, “well done” or “how are you?”. Making an effort to speak the host country language goes a long way in creating strong relationships with your foreign counterparts.
- Take care of personal logistics. This covers everything from keeping up your wellness routine to making hard copies of your passport, credit cards to knowing exactly where you’re going and how you get there before you even land. Making sure to have a solid foundation – and as many of your bases covered as possible – beforehand will help you feel more grounded and ready for the what-can-be-destabilizing experience of operating in a strange environment.
- Connect with a network. If you have a group of people you know on-site, send them an email and plan to meet when you arrive. Otherwise, as your friends or LinkedIn connections if they can make an introduction for you. Check out expat forums on the internet and ask people that have been there about seemingly trivial but actually important topics such as where to live, where to shop, a typical working day there, social groups, places of worship, etc. Once you are in your host country, work on growing your network of friends and colleagues – especially including locals – right away. Not only can it be lonely travelling abroad, but developing your list of contacts there will only enhance your overall network.
- Enjoy your time. Don’t forget that, in most cases, a privilege to journey to a new territory. Take advantage of this adventure to explore around the area, visit historical sites, and try some out of the ordinary activities you would never have done before – like taking a cooking or an art class or touring around on bicycle. Making sure to have fun and enjoy the ride will also help reduce the stress of adapting to a new schedule and culture.
Certainly, as a girl from Kentucky, I have found that my time living and working abroad – while not always easy – has enriched my professional and personal ways in indescribable ways. My wish for you is that you gain at least as much satisfaction out of your journey overseas.
Colleen Slaughter, Proud Executive Coach to the UN World Food Program, the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Winner
As an Executive Coach for Women in Leadership and Transformational Facilitator, my intention is to help leaders in positions of high influence to understand their worth at a profound level.
Supporting women leaders to truly thrive and step into their greatness, while succeeding in male-dominated industries and spaces is my native genius.
My technique and approach show you how to achieve incredible career success without compromising any part of who you are and what makes you magnificent.