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Research other countries before starting that business trip

If you're going to do business with foreign people, you must understand them. All too often, we don't understand who we're dealing with.

When we bring our own mindsets, perceptions, attitudes, values and belief systems to foreign business dealings, we often forget their values and systems are different. Additionally, our foreign counterparts may not be aware of our idiosyncrasies, and may have done little to prepare to meet with us.

Our executives must prepare. Unfortunately, the common argument is that they have busy schedules, hence no time to learn about the places they'll visit.

Conventional wisdom tells us to take courses and hire experts. While this is true, are there things international deal-makers can do right away to increase their understanding?

Here's a list of simple things that can be accomplished even by the busiest people:

Even if the language is different, look at the way the paper is laid out, how ads are handled, what colors (if any) are used and what sections may exist. How sophisticated is the design and typesetting?

Additionally, the Web can steer you to streaming radio stations from countries you visit. Thus, you can listen to Radio Nigeria in your living room.

A fictional novel with some cultural accuracy also will help. James Clavell's novels are an excellent example of this; they all deal with stories in Asia, and educate as well as inform. If you're planning a long stay, the "Culture Shock" series are books written by foreign people who lived where you're going.

The few hours spent following this list could reap huge rewards overseas, while avoiding serious pitfalls.

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