"Helpful Hints for the International Business Traveler. Or, How to do Business in the United States. "
More and more foreign business executives have discovered their
tiny world shrinking like a traveling carnival t-shirt left in the dryer
overnight, along with the realization the only sales route worth mining is
a global one. Crawling over oceans like inflatable fire ants. And
belatedly, many are also learning about the hidden obstacles lurking behind
the waffle iron of every international deal making breakfast. Although our
American culture may be the red white and blue bowling ball on the ping
pong table of commerce, a lot of folks find themselves unprepared for the
peccadilloes, strange customs and fascination with rear seat cup holders
Americans desire while doing business with each other here in the States.
It is for them and for their children I have created this primer that will
allow the huddled masses to fit in and wheel and deal just like they were
born in Biloxi and knew what chicken-fried steak was.
- Children in the United States are a bit precocious. Don't be
surprised if an American child approaches you with a handgun and requests
money, sexual favors or your shoes.
- In America, short-term rewards are prized way above long term
results, and when the short term rewards involve cash in hand, the results
will very likely turn into long term associations.
- Business is commonly conducted between the hours of 8:00 am and
5:00 pm. But if you're actually serious about getting a deal done, avoid
early mornings, the hours immediately following lunch, Mondays and Fridays.
Best results can be achieved Tuesdays through Thursdays between 10:00 am
- Remember America is the most litigious society in the world. As you
enter the country, a lawyer will be given your name and your movements and
actions will be closely monitored by a close knit band of khaki clad
confederates at all times. Except in New York, where they will be wearing
- The official language of the United States is English, but while
conducting business in the South, wiser folk than you have been known to
hire interpreters and food testers.
- Often, after dinner and a couple of drinks, it will not be unusual
for American business types to ask you up for a cup of coffee before
returning to your hotel. The term to keep in mind here is "quicksand."
- Compliments are freely exchanged for no apparent reason. If you
wish to chat up an associate, start by referring flatteringly to a part of
their body that appears attractive to you.
- US executives start talking about business immediately. Often,
contracts are signed in elevators on the way to offices. Sometimes they
will neglect to get out of the car.
- Coffee will be mentioned, but what they're really talking about is
vast amounts of liquid candy with chocolate and whipped cream.
- The greeting "How are you?" is not an inquiry about your health.
Just mumble some vague nonsense or make rhythmic clicking noises. Just so
long as you constantly emit sound. Americans have a deathly fear of
silence. Try not to recoil from their grunting noises. They can sense fear.
- Until you know a person well, avoid discussing religion, politics,
money, abortion, race, sex discrimination and the WWF. Food and health
insurance are fair game.
- A man may take your business card, and put it in his wallet which
he will then place in a back pants pocket. This is not meant to show
disrespect. However if he takes your hand and puts it there, call security.
- When dealing with the government it is best to retain the services
of a person who will stand directly at your side and shout your responses
at an ear splitting volume. Either that or a small roto tilling device.
- Americans will pretend to be knowledgeable about football but will
be referring to huge behemoths wearing body armor crashing into each other
over the possession of a misshaped ball. Their comprehension of pro
falconry stats will also be uniformly woeful.
- When dealing with a large American corporation be prepared to
remove your scruples and leave them in a jar by the door. Any door. Every
Will Durst needs to get some sun.