Whether you’re a consultant hired to work on a project overseas, an entrepreneur looking for funding abroad or an employee, taking your first international business trip can be both exciting and daunting. If you’re self-employed or hope to be, you want to make sure you can start building lasting business relationships. If you’re working for a company, you want to repay the faith your employer has shown in you by sending you on such an important trip by demonstrating excellence. Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or you’ve never set foot outside the country before, business travel is different from any other type. The tips below can help you ensure this is the first successful journey of many.
Seize the Opportunity
Unfortunately, business travel isn’t very glamorous. You’ll spend a lot of time in meetings and conference rooms. In fact, people who travel for work often complain about seeing little else. If you want to get out to some of the sights, you may need to be proactive. Try to add a day or two at one end of your trip. You may need to pay for all of part of this on your own. If you’re going to be traveling regularly for your job, you might want to look into ways to cut expenses at home so that you always have a little reserve even if a last-minute trip is scheduled. There may be ways to cut back on some of your expenses so you can put the difference away. For example, if you are paying off student loans, you may be able to refinance them at a lower interest rate. You can then take the difference in savings of your monthly payments and stash it in your travel fund. Ask your colleagues abroad for recommendations of what to do while you’re there since locals usually have the best advice.
Get Money and Documents in Order
If you’re an employee, your company will presumably handle this for you, but if you’re going on your own, be sure that you have not just your passport but any visas or other paperwork you’ll need. You’ll also need to contact the financial institutions of any cards that you’re using to let them know you’ll be out of the country so your account doesn’t get frozen on the assumption that fraudulent activity is occurring.
Understand Cultural Expectations
Whether you’re going to a country where everyone speaks your language and seems to have a similar culture to your own or you’re traveling someplace that you expect to be very different, be aware that manners and cultural expectations can vary widely. You may need to engage in more or less small talk than you’re accustomed to, or you may be expected to socialize with your colleagues more or less than you do back home. Etiquette may be more or less formal than you are used to. Some leeway will be given since the people you are meeting with know that you are a foreigner, but extra efforts to meet them at least halfway will make a great impression.