As a business traveler, you will likely meet and work with people from all walks of life. Sometimes that requires making or closing a deal in another country. Plus, it's no secret that as technology expands, so does the possibility of making connections with a business in another country.
While this is great for business, it can be a challenge if you are required to travel to a country where you don't speak the native language. Fortunately, there are several strategies you can use to help you make communicate effectively and make the most out of your travels. Here are some of them.
1. Keep notes on your phone or in your wallet.
Having an address to your accommodations is always a good idea, regardless of where you are traveling. However, when you don't speak the language, having an address that has been translated can make your travels much easier. This way, you can ask the airport officials for assistance if needed and can give the address to a taxi driver.
You can do this without having to rely on your cell service that may be spotty, depending on where you are. I make a note before every trip of where I'm going and I try to download any ride share apps that may be relevant ahead of time (though this isn't always an option). This includes addresses of pertinent places such as where my accommodation and business office are located.
2. Download translation apps.
Did you know that there are apps, like Google Translate, that will translate text simply by placing your camera over it? There are other apps that you can use to type out what you want to say and it will translate for you. You can even speak to your app and it will translate to your desired language.
If you can't get an app or your phone to load and need to point something out quickly, you can always use the emoji's on your phone. I have a friend who has pictures of common things such as police, hospital, airplane, etc. saved in her notes app. This way, she doesn't have to rely on having service.
3. Know who to talk to.
If you need to communicate in English, you can often find young professionals who can communicate with you. The tourism or information center in an airport is a good place to stop at for any assistance you may need (and also for any maps of the city which I always recommend getting). If you are not near the airport, stopping in a hotel is another option where people are more likely to speak English.
4. Plan ahead on how to initially get around.
Planning ahead is always a good idea. But when you are in a place where your native language is not common, this can make a huge difference and save you much time, stress, and even money. Look up how to get to your accommodations and write down or take screenshots of your journey.
You can also ask your colleagues or the people that you will be meeting what they recommend.
5. Get a business card and a map (if available) from your hotel.
When you check-in, ask for a business card with the address of the hotel you are staying at. This way if you get lost or you take a taxi, you can share the address in a way that they can understand. Plus, you don't have to pull out your phone.
Also, ask one of the hotel staff members to highlight the hotel and the place where you will be working on the map. This way if you get lost, you can point to the map. It's also a good way to get an idea of how the city is laid out.
6. Learn a few words.
Learning a few words will not only help you get by while traveling, but it may also impress your colleagues. A few key phrases and greetings will help show that you respect the culture. Usually making an attempt to speak the language yields better treatment.
I sometimes use this as an icebreaker when meeting someone new during a business meeting. I will ask if I'm correctly pronouncing a certain word or phrase. Usually, people open up when they know they can both be of assistance and when they know you are trying to adapt to their culture.
7. Avoid committing any faux pas.
Finally, learn what is and isn't acceptable in the culture. Things like pointing, rubbing your nose, or even smiling may be very offensive. Plus, knowing what to avoid can help you make a better impression with the people you are hoping to do business with.