www.ivcla.org) joined me for dinner and informal conversation. It’s always a special evening when I am able to host people visiting Los Angeles. They are professionals known to be leaders in their field in their country. The visits are organized by The National Council of International Visitors (www.nciv.org) working with the US State Department. At IVCLA we call it Citizen Diplomacy. It’s individuals coming together sharing their ideas, experiences, professional observations. For me, it’s also an opportunity to make new friends.
That evening our conversation included discussions about what surprised them during this, the second week of their first visit to the United States. “You don’t ask as many personal questions as we do at home” was the observation made by the woman in the group. She went on to say that in India within minutes of meeting her I would have inquired if she was married, had children, and if not, would ask when she planned to start a family and offer advice on child rearing. In addition she said that during her job interview she was asked if her husband would object to her having to commute and to travel. It’s impossible to imagine moving so quickly to personal topics here and to say nothing of the question asked during her job interview. We might view that as a lawsuit waiting to happen.
She pointed out that Americans coming to work in India should be prepared for these inquiries. They need to know not to take offense but rather to understand that people are trying to get to know you, to build a relationship with you. Business depends on relationships and answering questions that can’t be asked in Los Angeles may be essential for moving your business forward.