Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Phone and The World

A recent article in the Economist ( titled “The Apparatgeist calls” reminds us that culture influences more than the food we eat and the time we eat it. Rather the writer points out that culture shapes what we name things like our phones which, when translated into English, are referred to as cellulars, mobiles, hand machines, handys or something you can carry with you depending on where you live. (The US, UK, China,Germany, Japan).

Beyond naming culture and lifestyle shapes the look of the phones we buy and how we use them. For example when and where we are willing to take a call. The author suggests that in Italy people are willing to pay for a great looking phone rather than minutes to talk while the Germans generally are more concerned about cost that appearance.

History, economics, too play a role in shaping the use of phones, but the one constant across all cultures seems to be that the phone you can carry has become an integral part of our lives.

Monday, January 25, 2010

What to Wear?

I laughed out loud reading David Lebovitz’s description of the moment he knew he’d adapted to his new home city – Paris. In his book "The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City" he described the lazy Sunday afternoon when he showered, shaved, dressed in a starched shirt and pressed jeans - all in order to take out the garbage – only steps down the hall from his front door.

No old sweatshirt, wrinkled shorts or yoga pants outside the front door for this (formerly) California guy. How he appeared, should one of his neighbors spot him, now was important. Without conscious thought he’d adapted to the dress patterns of his new home.

For a Californian who does wear old sweats to walk down the hall to the garbage chute the idea is hilarious. But at the same time, as one who spends significant time each year in Paris, it makes perfect sense. How you look even taking out the garbage matters.

When we pack for business trip we think in terms of weather at our destination, the weight of the bag and the cost we’ll be charged to get it on the plane. We need to take a few minutes to think about what we wear to look like we belong, to create a look that makes people comfortable with us. Formal or casual? Jeans or suits? Short sleeves or not? Lots of jewelry or none?

To answer the question Google: what to wear (name of destination),
Check Journeywoman (, or guides including Fodor’s ( or Trip Advisor (, ask someone you know who does business at where you’re headed. For fun look at what’s being worn on the streets around the world go to The Sartorlialist (

Make it easy for people to feel at ease with you – look like you belong wherever your business takes you.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Foods of Home

What’s your food? The food (or drink) that means home – not just what your mother or grandmother made but something that represents your country, your culture?
In the US, it’s hard to identify one item that is woven into the history, development, and culture of the country. While we may look to the Thanksgiving dinner (turkey, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie) that may be the answer for everyone.

However, depending on where you live THE food or drink may be coffee or sweet tea, gumbo, tacos or a hamburger. There isn’t really one food that everyone associates with the US. But in other places the answer may be more precise: France is wine and cheese, Italy pasta.
Argentina beef and Japan sushi and rice.

It was the Economist’s articles “Rice in Japan: You Are What You Eat” ( that made me think again about food as symbol of ones culture. The article discusses the history of Japan and rice, the importance of rice as an influence of the Japanese view of themselves and of Japan's relationship to the world. Should the Japanese eat only Japanese rice (and maintain a protectionist attitude regarding agricultural products) or not?

Each of us can name a food that speaks to us of home, what we seek when we travel and need some comfort. What food is yours? Is there one that shapes the policies, attitudes, trade regulations of your home country? This is not a frivolous question. Knowing how people might answer adds to our understanding of a place and its people, their attitudes and by extension, their approach to business. Where are you headed next and what food matters there?

Monday, January 11, 2010

When Call I Call?

My friend visiting from Paris asked me when was a good time during the day or evening to call someone at home. When would be appropriate to reach out to a friend for a chat, to ask for some information, or simply say hello? Her query was prompted by her experience calling a friend in Los Angeles at 6:00 pm, the perfect time in Paris where it would be after the press of work, before dinner would be starting. To her surprise her LA friend couldn’t talk then as they were on the way out to dinner.

The discussion reminded me that every place has its rhythm of life. There is a time for meals, for work, for play and to sleep. To really know a place, connect with people we meet its important to understand the patterns of a day.

To learn what that schedule may be at your next destination check the country reports called, Culture Grams ( They cover times for meals as well as business hours. (Don’t forget to check the World Clock at to be sure you know what time it is at home and at the place your are visiting.)

Be prepared so that when your thoughtful phone call is placed it's likely to be a time when it will be happily received.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Where did it come from?

It was enlightening to read PriceWaterhouseCoopers (“Global Sourcing: Shifting Strategies” presenting the results of their survey of of retail and consumer company executives in eight countries .

It was no surprise to note that global sourcing is increasing and the issues surrounding it are becoming increasingly complex. While sourcing is global, in a large part to create a cost savings, no longer can a company select a factory, a country by only considering transportation costs and delivery times.

What struck me as I read through the report was the number of critical issues that must be understood, evaluated and managed relating to the creation of consumer products. We can begin with issues of country and currency risk that are essential to assess to decide where to obtain materials, where to manufacture a product. But beyond those categories, complicated themselves, it’s necessary to consider at least eight other broad categories. These topics include product safety, ethical issues (bribery, corruption), working conditions, security throughout the supply chain, environmental impacts (of the location, the processes), climate change and carbon footprint. This would be complicated in a static environment but every moment brings a news report, currency shift, snow storm or political upheaval that may change the equation.

Global sourcing isn’t simply having a t-shirt made someplace with low cost labor. Not anymore. It’s an amazingly complicated activity requiring a global view of the world, its limitations and a focus on its possibilities.