Sunday, December 26, 2010

Food for Luck

At this time of year our thoughts are often occupied by images of food, plans of what to eat now and diets to follow later.  We remember food that is special for our families that are part of the holiday celebrations.   We may bring out the old recipes for pink or green Jell-O, potatoes with marshmallows, prime rib and Yorkshire pudding, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, tamales or tacos.  The possibilities are unlimited.  But people don’t select their dishes simply because it reminds them of childhood, grandma’s house or great aunt Sarah.  Some foods become part of the menu, especially to welcome a New Year,  because they are thought to bring good luck. 

An article on the food site Epicurious, tell us that around the world there are a variety of “lucky” foods, ones that can give us an idea of the year ahead or bring good fortune when consumed.  (  According to their research, if you’re in Spain you may want to eat 12 grapes just before midnight to welcome the year.  In Mexico and Peru people believe the twelve grapes indicate the months of the year to come. Sweet ones suggest a sweet month ahead, tart, maybe some problems that month.

It’s not only grapes that are important. The Danes eat stewed kale while lentils appear on New Year menus and special dishes in Italy, Germany and Brazil.  Why? Tradition says that greens represent folded money (kale, cabbage, collard greens) and legume (peas, lentils) coins.  Consuming them hopefully helps bring good fortune in the year to come.

Around the world people serve sweets for the holidays.   Cookies and cakes, covered in honey and powdered sugar appear in varied shapes and sizes.  In some countries like Mexico a trinket or coin goes inside a cake.  If you find it you’ll be lucky in the new year. 

No matter what food adds to your celebration you may want to follow one of the German traditions.  They lave a little food on the plate past midnight to insure a well-stocked pantry in the new year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Bazaar of Jade and Pearls

The Jade Market in Kowloon is well known destination for visitors to Hong Kong.   This isn’t an open air market rather it is one housed in two small buildings that look like old metal warehouses.  Step inside and see row upon row of stands filled with jewels – jade made into necklaces, bracelets, earrings and small statuses.  Strands of pearls in seemingly dozens of colors hang together or are heaped on tables.   It’s a visual delight to see the colors, shapes, and abundance of choices.

It wasn’t until I walked away that I was reminded these are serious business people not just friendly people sharing lovely pieces.  A glimpse of the sign the welcome sign shown above was enough to make it clear – while this is a local market – the customers are from around the world.   The businesses in this local market welcoming their global customers.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dress to Shop

At this time of year most stores focus their energy (at least in the US) on getting customers into the store.  Special pricing, new merchandise, entertainment and extended hours are announced everywhere you look.  Ads appear on-line, in print, on billboards, TV and radio.  Come in.  Hang out.  “Buy Things Please!” they all seem to say.

Imagine my surprise when a friend in London pointed out that Harrods has "guidelines" (rules) for how customers should dress and behave in their store.  (  Wear clean clothes and carry your backpack in your hand they instruct the reader.   Groups are limited to 4 people (but what if your family totals 5?) Follow the rules or don’t come to visit seems to be the message.

Anyone who has had to navigate through the crowds at Harrods can appreciate their limitations on group size, but telling the customer how to dress in order to shop in your store?  Clearly they are confident in the draw of their brand, that their profits will be secure even if they have to turn some shoppers away.  

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why Do They (or We) Do That?

It’s obvious we say.  Business is global.  We work with teams whose members come from many countries, even when we all live in one place.  As we strive to work together we still find ourselves asking – why do they do that?

Now answers to that question are coming not just from observation of people in business situations but also studies conducted in a relatively new field called Cultural Neuroscience.  In a recent article  Beth Azar describted it as a “field that uses brain-imaging technology to deepen the understanding of how environment and beliefs can shape mental function.” 

Based on their work we learn that culture appears to influence brain development and possibly brain development influences culture too.   New ways to answer our question.

It’s fascinating to read about the studies and this developing field.  Neuroscience can measure cultural differences, possibly confirm work from the field of cultural psychology.  That in turn will help all us be better able to answer our the question:  Why do they (or do we) do that?  Take a few minutes and read her article” Your Brain on Culture” and look forward to learning what else these scientists discover. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The MRT Says Please Be Polite

The Merlion of Singapore
Riding the MRT (subway) in Singapore is as familiar as riding the tube/metro/subway in London, Paris, New York and LA up to a point.  The maps, the connections, all easy to follow.

What was different?  No food wrappers dropped on the floor, no graffiti inside or out, no vending machines selling snacks or drinks, no people snacking as they commuted.

Most surprising?  There was no one (almost) was reading.  Only once during a week’s worth of riding did I even see someone scanning a newspaper.  No books, magazines, no Kindles.  No ear buds peeking out suggesting an I-Pod in use.   Looking around there were just lots of people sitting or standing going along to their destinations.

The quiet, orderly ride contrasted sharply with the rush to get into the car.  The doors open and people charge ahead to get on as people are getting off.   “Everyone in Singapore wants to be first all the time.”   That was the comment of an American working there and, judging by the actions of the commuters, he may be right.  The MRT thinks it’s enough of a problem that they regularly make announcements encouraging people to be more polite.  To let people off the train before they enter, to give their seats to elderly riders or pregnant women. 

Keeping the subways system clean isn’t a problem.   Stopping the rush on and off, getting people to be polite – that’s still a challenge and one that isn’t unique to Singapore.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No PDA here

When I think about my upcoming visit to Hong Kong I imagine the wonderful view of the harbor at night, the pleasure of riding the Star Ferry and the adventure of figuring out what to eat while exploring the city. 

But talking recently with friends who work for the Hong Kong Trade and Development Council ( discussing differences between business in Hong Kong and the US I learned about something I wouldn’t see.  There probably won’t be any  PDA.  That translates to no Public Displays of Affection.   

Even when the public is your friends or family much less strangers on the street.  No holding hands.  No quick kisses.   Showing affection between two adults is very private, reserved for the people involved.    As I thought back to my last Hong Kong visit that coincided with Valentines Day I realized that on that romantic weekend celebrated enthusiastically I saw no PDA.  There were many couples walking together, with the woman carrying a bouquet of flowers (not something you’d see in LA).  But there were no casual PDA.   Flowers carried were the show of affection rather than hands linked together.  

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jobs and Investment, Coming and Going

On Friday, October 22, 2010  the Wall St. Journal ( ran two articles, on the same page, about the global business aspect of American companies.  At the top of page B8 was the an article about ad agencies  expanding into Africa followed by one about an Italian investor increasing his investment in Saks Inc., an American company.  Check out - " Global Ad Agencies Flocking to Africa" and "Italian Mogul Della Valle Boosts His Interest in Saks".

Reading the two articles, one right after the other, reminded me again that trade travels in two directions.  However the impact can be seen both at "home" and "away".  In the first article we learn that  American ad agencies are expanding their business in Africa creating opportunities in countries including Nigeria and Kenya.  At the same time their expansion protects their relationships (and income) from American businesses that use their services globally.

The  second articles reveals that the two largest shareholders of Saks Inc now come from Italy and Mexico.  Their investments protect American jobs ranging from highly compensated executives to minimum wage employees who clean the stores at the end of the day. 

At a time when protectionist sentiment abounds, when trade agreements are stalled, we need to pay attention to reports like these.We need to remember that trade, investment and jobs come and go.
That the benefits of expansion and investment, as well as the costs, flow in two directions,  coming and going,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coffee for Clear Thinking

Drinking coffee is so important in our society that a change in Starbucks instructions to their staff (the Baristas) was reported in the October 13, 2010  Wall Street Journal.  "At Starbucks, Baristas Told No More Than Two Drinks" (   Starbucks, a very global company has expanded to  49 countries delivering a taste of US coffee around the world.  But Starbucks didn’t make coffee important to the world.  Hundreds of years before Starbucks was launched, coffee made its appearance in peoples' daily lives.

According to the book The History of the World in Six Glasses, (T. Standage) ( coffee’s popularity in Europe began in the 1600’s.   This new drink, coffee, was considered modern, novel, but more importantly it was thought to create “sharpness and clarity of thought”.   This was a significant benefit as wine and beer were common drinks, even at breakfast, often leaving people a little fuzzy even as they started the day.  Coffee then, as now, energized the beginning of the day.  Drinking it became a shared activity and lead to the creation arrival of coffee houses where people shared coffee, conversation and the news of the day.

To discover more about coffee and history, for  fresh look at our world pick up this book.  You'll be able to discover how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and that special global drink:  Coca-Cola became part of our lives. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Best Country Is ?

What’s the best country in the world?  If you’re wondering how to answer that question you can consult Newsweek (magazine’s) article (   Their report ranks 100 countries  to answer to the question:  If you were born today where should you be born to have the best opportunities to live a safe, healthy, reasonably prosperous life?  The full ranking can be found on line but you’ll want to know that Finland was declared # 1 and completed  Burkina Faso  the list at #100.  The US?  It's  #11. 

In addition to an Overall Best category they also broke down the survey in other ways.  For example there was Quality of Life with Germany #1, Economic Dynamism with Singapore  # 1 and the US #2.  In addition there’s a more lighthearted look at the world ranking the best place to fly a kite (India), to own a dog (Belgium), to take a road trip (South Africa) or to dine (Spain).

Take a look at world in another way.  Decide for yourself, what country ranks as #1.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

NBA Going Global Too

Last week I asked, “what will come next” as the NFL (National Football League) began the season with games played in London rather than Los Angeles, New York or Dallas.  Now we know what’s next -  It’s the NBA (National Basketball Association) that is becoming increasingly  global (

The Los Angles Lakers, 2010 NBA  champions, New Jersey Nets, Houston Rockets, and Minnesota Timberwolves are on the road too.  The Lakers open their 2010-2011 season with an exhibition game in London playing against  another US team, the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Their second game, however, will be played against a European League team, Regal FC in Barcelona.    Exhibitions games by the two US teams will be played Milan, Paris, London and Barcelona.  But it isn’t only Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom that will host NBA games this October.  

The New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets (known for their star Yao Ming) will start their season in China playing in Beijing and Guangzhou.  (By the way, the NBA was the first American professional sports team to play in China with its games in 2004.)

Appearing to follow the of the NFL , the NBA will begin playing regular season games outside the US (or Canada) in 2011.    The teams who will compete?  They  are the New Jersey Nets (owned by a Russian businessman) and the Toronto Raptors, the only team from Canada in the NBA.

Sports – more and more global.  World Cup.  Ryder Cup.  Maybe someday we will see a World Series that truly brings together teams from around the world.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

National Football League Going Global

For the fifth year the National (US) Football League is playing a game outside the continental US.  In an effort to expand interest in the American style football (not to be confused with football known as soccer) the NFL has taken the game on the road.  On October 31 the San Francisco 49ers will play the Denver Broncos in London.
What began with a 2005  exhibition game in Mexico City is becoming a regular part of an NFL season.  This year's game is the fourth trip by the NFL to London and it is a regular season game, part of the march to the Super Bowl. 

This game is only part of the NFL’s strategy to build a global experience, expand the platform, fan base and interest in this classic American sport.   In July of this year NFL International (  announced that Lord Brian Mawhinney had been appointed special advisor to help guide the development of the league in Britain.  Now the NFL will be represented in the UK not by just one game in October but fulltime.

Another example of the continuing special relationship between the US and the UK.   What will come next?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Global Cities from around the world

How does your city rank as a Global City?  To find the answer  review The Global Cities Index 2010.  The list is a collaboration of the Foreign Policy magazine, A.T. Kearney and the Chicago Council of Global Affairs. (

If you’re in London, Los Angeles, Singapore or Sydney your city is in the top 20 as it was in 2008, the first (and only other) list put together by this group.  Moscow missed the top 20 this time moving from 19 to 25.  Frankfurt and Shanghai appeared tied at 20 (or one is 20 and the other 21 – you can decide.).
The last on the list?  That was Chongquing which wasn't on the list in 2008 (which only had 40 cities listed.) That year Kuala Lumpur was # 40 (now # 48) and this year #40 is Atlanta.

Not simply a list based on population but rather an analysis of 65 cities with populations of over a million ranked using “25 metrics across five dimensions”. (  The metrics include, as you’d expect, the measure of business activity,  human capital, and how freely  information flows into and out of the city.  Beyond these basics they considered cultural experience  (sporting events and diversity of restaurants) and political engagement such as international organizations based there and the perceived influence the city on our global dialogue.

Look to see where your favorite city ranks overall and then explore where it is on the dimensions that you consider most important.   What make a city global for you?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sound of English

We hear repeatedly that English is the language of business around the globe.   It is one of the three languages (along with German and French) most often used for business within the European Union.  Teaching English is big business.  Even Disney is in the business with 15 schools in China (

But the idea that everyone knows English doesn’t always mean that we can all understand each other.  The sound of spoken English,  how we sound  even when pronouncing the same words as others varies depending  in part on our mother tongue.   To hear the variety of   the world’s English long on to The Speech Accent Archive, (  a site that collects and displays hundreds of accent samples from around the world.

Steven Weinberger, a professor of linguistics at George Mason University is the creator and administer of the site.  He wrote a 69-word paragraph, which he says contains almost every sound in English. Native and non-native speakers from around the world were recorded reading the paragraph and you can hear them on the site.

Click on the maps and you’ll be able to hear the voices of people form over 100 countries.  Listen to the sound of English when spoken by people who fist spoke French or Flemish, Polish or Icelandic, Zulu or Yuri.   Enjoy exploring the sounds of familiar words spoken in distinctive ways.  A common language shared around the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A New Language?

Is a new language emerging?   Can it be one that is considered too casual, too odd today but one that  may make it easier to connect without sharing a mother tongue or educational level?  Maybe so.

Writing in the Huffington Post ( Dr. Galit Dayan suggests that the icons and shortened words used in today’s text messages may be the beginning of a new language, one that links back 5,000 years to the Egyptian hieroglyphics.  The Egyptian writing consisted of universally understood symbols allowing an entire society to understand the messages being conveyed.  One did not need to know how to read traditional words formed by combinations of letters or images (Chinese ideographs for example) to grasp a message.

In her post “Text Like an Egpytian” she proposes that we are creating new global language which may be referred to some day as “text message icon language”.  While for some readers of this post it  may be difficult to decipher the message that was part of her example of this emerging language “ i'm vcing with Sacha and she said thr is a kb aftr and omg it's going 2 b so kool. so can i go? kkk g2g ttyl ily “ for millions of people around the world this message will be quite clear.

Is it possible that texting, sending messages that use symbols, eliminate vowels, create new letter combinations to represent words or phrases may become a global language?  One that allows us to connect more easily?  If so, it will be worth all the struggles learning to translate the text above that begins “I’m voicing with Sacha and ends with “I Love You”.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What will your money buy?

Those of in who travel globally can check to see the value of our own currency compared to the dollar, euro, peso, or rand or any other currency throughout the world by visiting the website (  Thanks to a couple of quick clicks we can estimate the cost of hotel room, dinner, or the treasurers we plan to bring home.  

But to get an idea of the relative value of our money, one can consider the costs of a Big Mac or a Cupcake.  The idea is purchasing power parity.  Comparing what something (a Big Mac) costs in ones own currency compared to what the cost of the same item (expressed in your own currency) will be at your destination. 

In 1986, the Economist magazine published the first Big Mac index (  The Big Mac, a signature product of McDonalds is sold in 119 countries providing a wide range for comparison.  It is a simplified way to determine if the relative value of one currency to another. For example as of July 22, 2010 the Big Mac pricing, expressed in US dollars was $2.72 in the US, $3.67 in Japan and $2.67 in Saudi Arabia.

While the best known the Big Mac index isn’t the only item that has been used as a point of comparison.  In 2004 there was the Tall Latte Index, referring to the Starbuck’s drink, and in 2007 an I-pod index appeared.  The most recent?  Cupcakes.  Travel and Leisure magazine ( published a report of the relative cost of cupcakes “By the Numbers Let Them Eat Cake” around the world.  While the sizes were very similar the prices varied widely.  A cupcake that cost (all in US dollars) $3.25 in Los Angeles cost $5.17 in Tokyo and only $2.50 in Amman, Jordan.

Whether you consider these comparisons serious or silly they are as much an indicator of the spread of products around the world as they are of the relative value of one currency to another.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Paris Drivers: Crazy or Creative?

Visitors to Paris who have been in a car or bus to riding around the Arc de Triomphe in may tell you that they feared for their lives.  They comment that Parisian drivers are wild and crazy.  They zip around the circle seemingly without regard for the cars around them. The concept of driving within specific lines doesn’t seem to exist.  They weave around each other, speeding when you’d expect them to slow down.   It looks random, weird and incomprehensible to a driver (like this one from LA) trained to stay within the lines when driving and to signal in advance of making a move. 

Ask a Parisian driver about their and they’ll tell you, with great spirit that their form of driving is creative.  They express their individuality as the circle around their famous landmarks.  Some Parisians I know said that driving in the US is too limiting, frustrating and annoying.  Staying within the lines stifles their creativity.

Now as I travel I’ll take a new look at the driving habits and wonder what it tells me about the place the people.  Maybe it isn’t that they are “wild and crazy”.  Maybe something else is going on.  People tell us about their ideas, their way of seeing the world by how they talk, dress and now we know even by how they drive!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Music travels the world

On the evening of June 21 every year the streets of Paris are filled with music. Jazz and Rock.  Classical concerts. Bands on the corners, in the parks and on stages around the city. It is the Fete de la Musique.  Metros are full as people go from place to place enjoying the music.  Walking to dinner one June 21st we came upon a New York Gospel choir performing on a small stage on a main street.  Surprises are everywhere.

This year the surprise came when watching TV with a friend in a small village, St. Benoit, not far from Paris.  Along with the news from the World Cup were the photos of the Fete de la Musique --- in Shanghai.    French expats imported something from home.  A night to celebrate music.  On June 21 in Shanghai, the evening before June 21 would arrive in Paris, there was music in the streets.

One festival in two places.  Yet again, music links us across the globe.  In this instance it is reminder that as we move, live in new places, learn new languages, new customs we also import touches of home, sharing our lives with our new friends. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Going Global? Visit the Markets

A recent set of management tips from the Harvard Business Review tells us that the ability to work in global teams, manage in a multi-cultural business environment can be developed in part by taking a vacation, immersing yourself in the local culture  

But how does one  “immerse” themselves in the local culture?  One way is to visit a local  market.  See what people eat, how the food is displayed, what the people look like, how they speak, interact.  Voices loud or soft?  Food packaged or available to be touched and tasted? Can you fill a sack with scoops of spices to season your sauces? . Do you have to weigh your fruits and vegetables before you get to checkout or risk getting yelled at?  Is the meat displayed on ice but not refrigerated?  This site can be shocking to an American eye accustomed to buying meat neatly packaged, wrapped and impossible to touch. 

No matter what country, city you visit you can find a market filled with local foods and the local residents.  If you’re in Berne, Switzerland on a Monday in November you may find the onion market.  One day where hundreds of booths are set up to sell onions.  On my next trip to Hong Kong I’m going to search out the Dried Seafood Street. Visiting a market, whether a tiny shop on a side street or the  one  like Barcelona's  La Boqueria ( in Barcelona gives you a unique view of the city, the people.  How do they dress, what do they eat, how is it displayed? 

This month Saveur magazine features the “Wide World of Markets”.  One article, Wide World of Markets ( highlights 30 markets around the world.  They range from one in Ethiopia that has 13.000 vendors to the largest farmers market in the United Sates located in Dane County, Wisconsin.
Wherever you go there are markets large and small that provide a window into the life of the local population. 

Take the time to look, learn and taste. In Los Angeles you can often sample chips, salsa, or hummus.  But in Moscow a sample of a local product can be spoonful of caviar.  A delightful way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

World Cup Teams of 23

With the World Cup starting in less than three weeks soccer teams were forced to make the final decisions about which 23 players would compete when the games begin.    The choices are complicated and difficult.  Kevin Baxter’s article “Mexico’s roster cut has fallout” in the Los Angeles Times ( looks at the possible ramifications of that team’s choices.  At the last day allowed they cut  talented young player named Jonathan dos Santos bringing their number to the required 23.

I have no idea if this was a good move or not.  But what struck me was a comment by one of the team who stayed on the roster.  In describing his reaction to the decision he said, “whenever a teammate leaves, a teammate with whom you’ve spent time, eaten with, practiced with, it’s difficult.”

His words reminded me again of the power of a shared meal.  Whether it’s at a training table, an elaborate awards banquet or  coffee and snack at Starbucks meals eaten with others are special. They allow us time to connect , to have conversations that might not occur in any other situation.

Next time you’re debating whether to attend that dull sounding dinner consider the potential benefits.   Recall the comment of the soccer player ranking the shared meal with the experience of practice and being together.  If meals matter in building the bonds within a soccer team then its likely they can make a difference in the links in our lives - for pleasure and for business.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Maps Tell Stories

Maps can be more than a visual representation of continents, roads, rivers and cities.  They can tell us a story, inform us about history, how we view our place in the world.  The ten maps shown in the British Mail’s article "Ten of the Greatest:  Maps that Changed the World" make that clear.  Maps tell stories and here are ten of the most noteworthy.   (  The oldest one was created in  1400 and the most recent?  It's the 2005 Google earth.

You’ll be fascinated by the 1490 map that Columbus used to help convince the King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to fund his historic voyage and the one created in 1623 for the Chinese Emperor.  It shows China at the center of the world, even larger than it is in reality.

There's one on the list that I know well, many of you will also.  It's the 1933 map of the London underground.  Why did it make the list?  

Harry Beck's Underground map solved the problem of how to represent clearly and elegantly a dense, complex interweaving of train lines.  Placing the stations at similar intervals regardless of their true locations amplifies the area of central London, increasing its clarity, while the straight lines and interchange symbols confer a simplicity and order on the network. A cartographic icon.” 

How many subway maps have you used that follow his concept?

Read more by clicking on the link or even better, visit the exhibit exhibition at the British Library in London.  It runs through September 19, 2010 (

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What date is the National Day, Marathon, Election?

Heading to Berlin or Bhutan, Sydney or South Africa?  Want to know when there’s a trade show, election, marathon or national day at your destination?   The Bank Holidays site ( can answer your questions. 

A quick search told me that there are elections October 3, 2010 in Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Bosnia & Herzegovina.  September 26 the Grand Sumo tournament will take place in Japan and there’s a marathon to run in Budapest.    Plus, national day celebrations will occur October 1 in China and Nigeria, October 3 in German and the 27th in Turkmenistan. 

The site says their lists cover all the countries of the world and a quick scroll through the countries and regions lists places big and small on all the continents of the planet.  You can choose to search the site in any of 16 different languages. The information on is free for the current year but there is a fee for the range of 2000 to 2070.   It's fascinating to see how many events, elections, trade shows, celebrations take place throughout our world month by month, day by day.    Before you make  reservations for that trip whether  business or pleasure - find out what's happening at your destination.  You'll want to know before you go.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Jobs Arrive as well as Depart

We read endless articles about US jobs disappearing to places far from North Carolina, California, Texas, Michigan and every other state in the Union.  But we seldom read about the jobs that arrive, created here thanks to investments by companies who are based in those distant lands that become home to US jobs.

This month Fortune magazine ( published an article  “American made.  Chinese Owned,” that reminds us jobs move in two directions in our connected global economy.  Although Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium are among the countries with the highest dollar value of investment in the US, China’s direct investment highlighted in this article.  The author, Sheridan Prasso, points out that  Chinese businesses started 50 companies in the US in 2009 adding jobs  (1200 by one company in South Carolina alone) and bringing millions of dollars to the local economies. 

The numbers of jobs created by these international investors don’t pop up in seconds with a Google search.  Headlines don't shout the numbers at us.  But they exist.  The jobs are real. 

Today’s economic reality is that jobs leave and jobs arrive.    Let’s remember to the count flow in both directions.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Where do they Rank?

Looking for a new market?  Found a partner who says Vietnam (or Chile, South Africa, Morocco or Argentina) is the place to be?  Before you press ahead add to your research
the World Bank “Doing Business Survey” for 2010. (

This survey of 183 countries ranks countries in eleven categories including ease of doing business there, protecting investors, enforcement of contracts and trading across borders.  Singapore ranks # 1 in the Ease of Doing Business category indicating that the regulatory environment in the country is conducive to operating a business. Where does the U.S. rank?  It comes in at #4.  The most difficult place?  Central African Republic listed as  #183. 

(Greece, the country most in the news this week appears as 109 in the Ease of Doing business and 154 in Protecting Investors.)

Before you pack your bags or send investment dollars flying across the world, check out the survey.  The rankings may be enlightening. 

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Remember the Trains

It’s not just planes and boats that move goods (and people).  It’s time to remember roads and rail.  In the aftermath of the disruption caused by the eruption of Iceland’s volcano its easy to focus on connections dependant on air travel.   At the same time the news was filled with images of travelers sleeping in airports I came across two articles that reminded me, it's not just planes that matter today and tomorrow, next year.

According to a report by Mike Flanagan of Clothesources, ( UK provider of global sourcing intelligence presented in WGSN (  there is the “prospect of viable overland freight links between Europe and East Asia”.  He goes on to say transit times between China and Germany could be less than two weeks. 

In an article "New Silk Roads" in the April 10, 2010 edition, the Economist (  reported that China’s rail ministry projects  travel from Shanghai to London in 2025 will take just 2 days.

Roads, trains and of course planes connect us for business and pleasure.  Don’t think about one without remembering the others.  As you plan, ask yourself, what’s coming and what that may mean for trade, travel and your business.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sushi a Global Food?

In Los Angeles it’s easier to find sushi than a hamburger or the California staple, tacos.  It isn’t a surprise to find sushi in New York, London, Paris, Moscow, or Milan.  But sushi in Syria?  Not expected. Yet the April 20, 2010 edition of the Economist ( tells us that this delicacy is now readily available at least in Damascus.   The author of the article “Can exotic food lead to liberty?” sees the arrival  and popularity of sushi as an indication of Syria opening to outside influences.  That its appearance is a result of economic liberalization and the return of expats looking for familiar food.  The article is a thoughtful and intriguing reflection on implications of a changing restaurant scene.

Wonder where else you can find sushi?  Places that may surprise you?  Check The Sushi World Guide (  They host a list of 4,000 sushi restaurants around the world.  If you’re going to Ecuador, South Africa, or Kuwait this site tells you where find a place to satisfy a wish for some sushi.

Curious about the economics of your spicy tuna roll?  You may enjoy "The Sushi Economy" by Sasha Issenberg for a fascinating look at the business behind the food.

Sushi once a novelty is now joins the family of  global foods - another familiar food to enjoy as we explore the world for business or pleasure.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

How Do You Say Please?

I’m in awe of people like our waitress in Florence.  She explained, in excellent English, that she was from Germany, in Italy to perfect her language skills while studying at the University.  She’d be there a few more months and then was going to Argentina to improve her Spanish.  Before much time passes she’ll be fluent in four languages.   Impressive.

Languages aren’t easy for me.  My French is good, and I know a bit of Italian  - the most basic tourist level.  (English is my mother tongue.)  Believing that when you travel it's essential to be able to be polite, I’ve learned (and forgotten) how to say please, thank you, hello and good-bye in four other languages. 

While it’s unlikely that I’ll reach my goal of speaking Mandarin or even much more Italian, I will continue to struggle to capture the basics to be able to communicate wherever I go.   It seems to brighten the experience.  People respond kindly.  Taxi drivers are friendly.  Shopkeepers helpful.  Greetings that open meetings are often a little more relaxed.  There's an excellent return on time invested. 

Fortunately it’s easier than ever to achieve that goal.  Not only are there classes to take but Amazon ( will provide books, software or MP3 files to guide your learning.  Easier still is to download an app to an I-phone or Blackberry.  It's possible to expand your vocabulary by signing up with Transparent Language (  and receive a new word every day.  Choose from Arabic or Irish, Japanese or Portuguese or the one of the other eleven languages available.  You'll then receive a new word, with definition, use in a sentence and correct pronunciation in your mailbox.  It’s like getting a gift every day.  

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A wallet full of euros, pesos, hong kong dollars?

Getting ready to return home from  anywhere outside your home country may find your wallet full of the local currency. Often you don’t know when you’ll be back to use it.   What to do?  Hold on to it and hope to use it on the next trip?  Exchange it for your own currency at the airport and end up taking a loss?

Chris Young the Chief of Protocol of the State of Georgia and President of Protocol & Diplomacy International – the Protocol Officers Association ( who travels hundreds of thousands of miles each year suggested a solution in his weekly e-mail to PDI-POA members.  His recommendation was use the cash to pay part of your hotel bill, reducing what goes on the credit card.  Practical.  Easy. 

Another idea is to pay cash the day before departure  for items that you might otherwise pay with a credit card.  For example, I often pay for meals that last day with currency. 

Whatever your approach be sure to keep enough to cover transportation to the airport, some snacks, a magazine, maybe those last minute gifts, plus an allowance for an emergency.  Flight delayed?  Need another meal, a tip to someone who helped you? 

With a little planning you can return with only a few euros, peso, hong kong dollars that you can put aside for the next trip – maybe just enough for a cab ride to your hotel when you return. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Denim Everywhere

Paris the city of haute couture, global luxury brands and unknown creative designers is  also a city of a common piece of apparel:  Blue Jeans.  The very American gift to the world of apparel.  They are now most often referred to by the name of the material:  Denim.  Wherever you look there's a pair of jeans.  Denims.  Everwhere on everyone.  Even more than a year ago. At times it’s  hard not to stare as you check the details of a particularly interesting pair of jeans.   Pockets so low they are almost at the back of the knees.  A pattern woven into the fabric.  Sequins sprinkled down the legs. 

The languages spoken, the size, shape, color and age of the people wearing these pants  vary.   What they share is one element of the clothing.  In the museums, restaurants and on the streets it's jeans, old and new, distressed or ironed with sharp creases, expensive or not.  More than shoes or shirts, the blue jean has become the uniform of the world.  How many pairs are in your closet?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Holidays are when?

When my appointment in Rome planned for the Thursday before Easter was cancelled due to “Easter holiday” I was reminded that planning around holidays can be complicated. Easter is on Sunday but depending on where you are it is observed (and offices closed) on the Friday before (Good Friday), the Monday after (Easter Monday) and even the Thursday before or Tuesday after. And it can change year to year depending on people’s plans.

A quick check of Wikipedia ( will give you a list of holidays by country. For exactly how they are observed you may need to check information about the specific country. For many countries celebrate May 1 as Labor Day. However, for the holiday to celebrate the creation, independence of a nation you’ll find a wide variety of dates and titles for the event. For example, it’s July 4 in the US, July 21 in Belgium, September 15 in Guatemala and December 15 in Kenya. The form of celebration may surprise you. Hot dogs and fire works which often mark July 4 in the US may not appear in Korea, South Africa or Lithuania.

No matter the date, a holiday is a day of special significance drawn from the history of a place, an event, to honor an important individual or may have religious meaning. Whatever the reason it’s useful to know when, for how long, and how it is observed. You may find the opportunity to celebrate a holiday that is new to you. One of the joys of traveling the world.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Doing business in Korea?

Did you know that you should not write Korean names in red, especially your important PowerPoint presentation? Traditionally, red was the color used to write the names of people who were deceased. Don’t start your meeting suggesting (even indirectly) that your clients are no longer alive.

If you’re doing business in Korea or planning to, if your new partners or clients are from Korea, you may want to check out It’s an on-line community focused on doing business in Korea. You’ll find articles, blog posts and tweets about current business activities plus lists of books about Korea and links to other sites. Currently they are hosting a 30 day business series that sends subscribers a daily e-mail with tips to help you navigate doing business in Korea.

Know the issues big and small that can build your success. What color ink to use, whether the family name comes first or last (first in Korea before the given name) and if the Free Trade Agreement is still alive (it is). Be prepared wherever business takes you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What's a Vacation?

Think you can’t take time off for more than a weekend? Envy your French friends as they plan for three weeks in the country in the summer, the Italians who turn off the business e-mail during August?

Vacations, how much and when can be a sensitive topic. Unions negotiate for more time off on behalf of workers, employment contracts contain clauses relating to vacations to be taken and employers remind their staff that time off is a benefit not a right. But seldom does a government urge people to take more time off.

In Korea today the government urges people to take their vacation time. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal ( the Korean government has decided that workers are not taking enough vacation. The article “Vacation Takes Work in Korea” cites 2007 statistics for hours work showing that Koreans worked 2,316 hours a year – significantly more than US workers who averaged 1,794 hours or employees in the OECD countries who worked the fewest hours at 1,768.

After years of encouraging people to work to build their economy, the government now tells people to use their time off. Although Korean government workers are allotted 23 days a years the typical worker only takes six days.

Vacation. An extended period of recreation, travel, being away form home. Time to refresh. What's your plan for 2010?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hamburgers, Hemlines or Housing Starts?

Looking for ways to understand what’s going on in the economy, either local or global?
You may want to read through a recent Minyanville ( posted on MSN Money article ( title “Economic indicators: Serious and Silly (although what’s silly for one person is serious for another.).

Of the ten indicators listed you’ll likely be familiar with the CPI (Consumer Price Index), housing starts and unemployment rate. But did you ever consider tracking sales of men’s underwear? That’s a one followed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Other trends to watch include women’s hemlines (do shorter skirts mean a stronger economy?) or people on magazine covers (will the company stock go up or down?) For insight to global purchasing power there’s the Big Mac index published by the Economist magazine (

With a glance at the current index issued in January 2010 I can see that a Big Mac will cost approximately US $4.84 when I arrive in Paris later this month and in Japan in November it will cost $3.50. The average cost in the US? It’s $3.58. What’s the cost at your next destination and what data, trends will you follow to understand our world economy?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


What will we eat? While we talk about the the practical, professional aspects of our plans for travel the questions in our mind are often about food. (speaking for myself of course). What’s special there? Will I like it? How will I find what’s interesting? All these queries are in my mind as I plan for my first visit to Singapore later this year.

Thanks to a my niece’s blog after her recent visit I can see some of what I may sample during my stay. Curious about the street food and local snacks? Check out Lia’s blog: and you’ll immediately see images to tempt you. . Scroll past the "Cupcakes in Tacoma" post to the January 30 entry and learn what makes peanut butter toast so special.

Want to learn about more about Singapore than its food? Visit for wonderful photos, practical information and fascinating facts. Did you know that the 2008 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix was the first ever night race in Forumla 1 history?

If you have a special place to visit, meal to find, snack you love in Singapore I hope you'll pass along the information. After my visit I'll share what I find. Exploring a new destination - exciting!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentines Day: Global, Local, Forbidden

Valentines a global holiday? Really? I knew it was celebrated in France. In Hong Kong I’ve shared a special Valentines dinner with friends and seen couples strolling through the shopping malls, arms linked. Each woman was carrying a large bouquet of flowers. Florists in these centers hope that Valentines Day falls on a weekday, because clients will order flowers to be sent to friends, sweethears in offices in adjacent buildings.

But it isn’t a celebration limited to the US, France and Hong Kong. Thanks to Chris writing at, we are reminded that this is a global event. I learned form his post that in Denmark people send pressed white flowers called Snowdrops and that in Japan on February 14 women give presents to men. Their day comes on March 14 when it’s expected that men will reciprocate. In Taiwan the number of roses given has special significance (11 means “a favorite, and 108 “marry me") and for South Africa, the holiday brings tourists to the beaches.

Yet not every country celebrates with enthusiasm. In India there may be protests against this Western holiday and in Saudi Arabia celebration is banned. According to the Los Angeles Times writer Meris Lutz ( Valentines Day is “outlawed as a pagan holiday”.

This holiday often seems to be something created by the people who sell us greeting cards, its origins lost in a barrage of commercial messages. Yet, depending on where you are, the meaning is transformed, the celebratory activities varied.

Valentines Day – Global. Local. Sometimes forbidden.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Visitors from Sudan

Until this week my vision of Sudan was strife, death, poverty. My impressions came from the news, images on-line. I’d never met anyone who’d even visited Sudan, much less some who was from Sudan. All that changed Thursday evening. I had dinner with two people from Sudan who were in Los Angeles at the end of their visit to the US. They’d come to study curriculum development for their educational system.

Our dinner was the last activity of the their 10-day, three city (Boston, Washington, DC, Los Angeles) tour arranged by International Visitors Leadership program. The program is a joint effort of the National Council of International Visitors (NCIV) and the US Department of State. As a board member of the Los Angeles chapter of NCIV, the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles ( I was asked to provide hospitality for these visitors. What a great opportunity it was!

The visitors, a man and woman, both with graduate degrees, had traveled to Europe and Asia but never before to the US. By the time I saw them, they had met educators, government representatives, business people across the US.

They told me the trip changed their view of the United States and of Americans. No longer would they believe all Americans carried guns, that fights were everywhere and that all women dressed in a provocative manner. Their original vision was shaped by movies they’d seen. Now, they said, much to their surprise, they knew that wasn’t true.

And in exchange, their visit changed my view of Sudan. We shared stories of families and education, of travels and what we do to make a long flight better (we load our Kindles with books to read.). Suddenly I knew Sudan wasn’t all desolate and impoverished. It was like all countries a mixture of realities.

Thanks to the National Council of International Visitors ( we three have new (maybe expanded even improved) views of the world. We are linked to each other. Planning to exchange more visits, to stay in touch. We’ve changed our worlds and you can change yours too. Join an NCIV group near you. Help shift the view of Americans for visitors and yours of the countries they represent, the world we inhabit.

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.