I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately, to South Korea, Tunisia and Vietnam just in the past month, and to Rwanda earlier in the year. These trips continue to reinforce what I know to be true – that, despite differences in cultural, legal and structural circumstances, women business owners the world over are far more similar than they are different. While the challenges of access to information and education, markets, networks and capital may differ in their degree or relative importance, they remain the key needs of women business owners everywhere.
These recent journeys, having been largely focused on assessing the enabling (or unenabling) environment for women entrepreneurs and determining possible actions to address these challenges, have also reinforced to me that it is often the little things in life that can make a big difference. I’m talking, in this instance, of the disarming and connective power of a simple “hello.” By that I mean saying hello to government officials, political leaders, NGO managers, and women business owners themselves in their own native tongue.
Before embarking on international trips, I always jot down a few handy phrases – hello, please and thank you are a great start. It’s amazing what a direct smile, firm handshake (or a bow, depending on the region) and a few key words will do to help a conversation flow more smoothly, even if the rest of it comes through interpretation.
Try it yourselves the next time you take a journey to a distant land or a different culture. I find these to be helpful resources:
- Hello in many languages: http://www.elite.net/~runner/jennifers/hello.htm
- Thank you in many languages: http://www.elite.net/~runner/jennifers/thankyou.htm
- Culturally-sensitive travel tips: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/responsibletravel/travel_tips.cfm
- Wonderful etiquette tips from my friend Syndi Seid (subscribe to her monthly e-newsletter, you’ll be glad you did): http://www.advancedetiquette.com/