Today was my last day of training the fine folks at WorldMark Corporation/Oil Technology Overseas here in Moscow, Russia. Although this was not my first international training mission, it is certainly one of my fondest. The reason is that in a relatively short time (6 weeks) I have acclimatized myself quickly to a new culture, gained valuable insight into my business and most importantly, have forged strong, deep friendships with people that I KNOW I will see again.
International training (or travel for that matter) is not for everyone, and although I am not trying to make myself out like a hero I will say that I do have the right personality and characteristics for extended travel. What might they be, you ask?
I believe first and foremost that you have to be able to suspend judgment. We all are ethnocentric - we see the world through our own values from our cultural upbringing. When abroad it is essential that you have an open mind and even a curiosity for things that are not familiar to you. Can you have a frank but still polite discussion with others on the deadly topics of politics, religion or other taboos in society? Will it end in an argument or a smile? Will you risk sacrificing a fat business contract for the sake of your ego or worse yet, the beliefs of older generations?
Also I believe that when traveling for business you need to have a sense of humour. Bad things may happen. Things that were promised might get modified. The question here is can you handle a little turbulence? If all in all you are involved in with a great company then I am sure you can negotiate respectfully. Pay attention to things that were given that were not promised. Do things balance out in the end?
Lastly I would like to say a business traveler needs a love of language, as language is indeed a window to the culture itself. Even when visiting a country for a short time you should learn at least a few greetings and expressions. It is the quickest way to start to understand your new friends and business partners. Not just their words, but their intention behind the words, and also why they do the things they do that may seem strange to you. In today's world of internet access there is no excuse why you cannot download a few pages to study on your way there or shortly after you arrive.
Well I could go on perhaps listing other important characteristics of an international traveler but for now I think I have hit the few critical characteristics near to my heart.
As I head back to Canada tomorrow I will be smiling, thinking of the good times I have had both personally and professionally, and although I miss my home and the people there I cannot escape the feeling that I will soon miss Moscow just as much.
Thanks for the memories.