Best 29 International Travel Tips

Whether you’re traveling internationally for business or leisure, here are 29 practical tips and advice that will help your next trip to be more successful, trouble-free and safe.

PRE-TRIP PREP

  • Enroll in STEP. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
  • Your passport. Keep color copies and email a copy to yourself and/or store in a secure cloud-based storage. Hide copies in your luggage.
  • Copy important credit cards and IDs – Front and Back. If lost or stolen, you have the numbers to call the respective companies. Check with your credit card company and bank to ensure that your credit cards / ATM will work in the countries you’ll visit.
  • Enter your destination country on the right visa. Each country has its specific visa entry requirements. If you are traveling for business purposes (or actually working), you may think it is less hassle to enter on a visitor’s visa. With global business mobility increasing, government officials around the world are attuned and checking for fraud. You and your company will not be treated favorably if you are caught upon entry, while in-country or at departure if you’ve entered on the incorrect visa.
  • Avoid cell phone bill shock. Add an international calling plan for the time you’re traveling abroad, acquire a prepaid phone, have additional options available like Skype or a local mobile phone.
  • Devices, computers, and adapters. Decide in advance what phone, laptop or tablet you need overseas. If the device stores confidential business or personal information that you don’t want to fall into the wrong hands, think about how to protect it before you take off – locking, cleaned devices, etc. Electrical outlets around the world are not the same. Universal adapters are available for purchase. Sometimes hotels will provide adapters or have built-in outlets for different geographies but don’t rely on this.
  • RFID blocking. Carry your credit and ATM cards or anything with a magnetic strip or chip in an RFID-blocking wallet or case that cannot be RFID scanned for your personal ID, account numbers and PINs.
  • No uninvited visitors. Post about your trip on social media AFTER you return from your trip. Don’t alert unwanted visitors your home is unoccupied. Have the post office hold your mail and a trusted neighbor or friend check on your place periodically.
  • Be medically prepared. Get the proper inoculations, check with your insurance company to see if you have medical travel coverage or buy medical travel insurance.
  • Toll-free numbers (800 / 888) will not work to dial into the U.S from overseas. Make sure you have your direct dial numbers for providers you may need to contact (bank, insurance, airline, etc.)

IN TRANSIT

  • Use covered luggage tags on your bags. It’s too easy to obtain your personal information if you have an open luggage tag. It’s also a good idea to take pictures of all your luggage.
  • Carry-on bags. Store your carry-on bag as close to you as possible. Ideally, store in your line of sight, diagonally, a few rows ahead of you. Store in the overhead bin with the zipper side down or at a minimum with zipper side not up.
  • Keep your medication (prescription or OTC) in the original container. If questioned, medication in original bottles with labels will be easier to explain. Also, if you have a medical condition that may need attention, carry the appropriate medical records.
  • Elude “airplane germs”. Traveling in confined airplane cabins with recirculated air may make you cringe and wonder if we’re going to get sick afterward. Dan Pink, the famous author/world traveler, has shared two practical tips. The first tip is to travel with antiseptic wipes. On the plane, wipe down the pull-down table, armrests, and chairs. Best advice ever, rub the inside of your nose with an antibiotic ointment (e.g., Neosporin) to help combat the germs that you may inhale when breathing airplane cabin air. Although not medically validated, I haven’t gotten sick after any of my trips since doing these two things.

ON ARRIVAL

  • Back home should know where you are. Text, connect or call your at-home family members and/or business contacts each time you arrive at your destination. 
  • Money. Know in advance the currency exchange rate and the in-country tipping protocols. There are apps available this. Always keep a little local cash on hand and easily reachable. It’s called “mugger’s money.” Just in case, it may be the little amount that you hand over to a thief and he/she will immediately go away.
  • Driver pick-up or taxis. The driver’s placard/sign should contain the logo of the transit company or a hotel logo as well as your name. Be wary of anyone who has a sign that only has your name on it. Also, if you’re taking a taxi from an unfamiliar airport, make a quick visit to the taxi company’s desk and ask the distance and much it will cost to get to your destination.
  • Be culturally sensitive. Whether your trip is for business or leisure, increasing your cultural intelligence (CQ) will make your trip more successful or enjoyable.
  • Language. If you don’t know the host-country language, learn a few important phrases or get a translation app.
  • Dress culturally appropriate and do not attract attention to yourself. Don’t stand out a tourist as much as possible. Tone down the “bling”, loud clothing and apparel with logos. Go without the designer purses and clothes, jewelry, expensive shoes. They will make you stand out and may draw undesirable attention from people with criminal intent. In some countries, wearing sneakers will make you stand out or may be frowned upon. Dress appropriately in religious regions. This may mean no shorts, short sleeves or short skirts. It’s advisable for women to carry a pashmina or large scarf.
  • Food. A threat while you’re traveling is getting sick and that can happen by contaminated food. Enjoy the local cuisine but be careful what and where you eat. Ice cubes, tap water and raw food should be avoided.
  • Know and follow local law. It’s starts with being honest (not deceptive) with immigration and border personnel on entry and departure. While in the country, penalties for breaking

IN-COUNTRY AND AT YOUR HOTEL

  • Street Scams.  As you travel around, be aware of potential travel or street scams. Here are 11 Common Travel Scams and How to Deal With Them. The best way to avoid a scam is to be hyper-vigilant to avoid being put in a compromising situation from the start. Trust your gut.  If it doesn’t feel right, be confident and stand your ground and don’t worry about offending anyone.
  • Request a room from the 2nd to 7th floor. The first floor is accessible to the public. Fire is one of the biggest dangers to hotel guests. You want to be able to quickly exit by through a stairwell so it’s better to be closer to the ground floor. If you’re trapped by fire in your room, fire ladders generally only reach to the 7th floor.
  • Fire exits. Check where your fire exits are and count number of doors to exit. If the building fills with smoke, you will know quickly how to escape.
  • Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door handle at all times – even when you’re not in the room. You can also keep the television or lights on. Occasionally, a hotel will mistakenly double book a room. This will alert the mistakenly, double-booked guest (who has a key card) that there is a problem with the room before they open the door.
  • Adjoining rooms. Even if there’s a lock on the adjacent door, do not accept an adjoining room suite. Ask for a different room.
  • Ordering in food from outside your hotel. Ask the delivery service to deliver food to the front desk or meet the delivery person in the lobby. Never give your room number to a stranger. If a hotel clerk says your room number aloud while others are present, ask for a different room.
  • Returning to your hotel. Vary your route. Do not take the same route every time you return to your hotel.

Note: The list is far from all-encompassing. If you have more tips or advice you’d like to share, please feel free to add your comments.

 

New Traits of Exceptional Multicultural Leaders

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Advice for the Next Generation of Multicultural Leaders

At the National Diversity Council’s 2nd Annual Multicultural Leadership Roundtable in San Diego in August, I was among five leaders of color who hold executive positions within their organization asked to speak on topics related to multicultural leadership and diversity.

This is a very timely topic. The world is reeling right now with intense discussions around religious conflicts, political discord, and challenging social issues. With all this in the background, people and companies continue to move into new geographies, expand operations, and want to sell in new cultures. More students, tourists, and workers are globetrotting around the world. As a result, the world is getting smaller and leaders are presented with more global challenges every day.

How does this generation of leaders (and the next) navigate through these unavoidable cultural differences and clashes? By developing the four main traits that exceptional multicultural leaders possess.

1. Great leaders resist being ethnocentric.

Ethnocentrism is judging another culture solely by the values and standards of one’s own culture. The aptitude to understand and be introspective about your own culture is an indispensable talent of a multicultural leader. The capability to see your own biases and know how you view others through your own cultural lens is vital as well.

My mother, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 25 years old, taught me my earliest life lesson about ethnocentrism: “People speak, act and think differently from you; just remember, they are just as right as you are.”

Trusted and respectful multicultural leaders understand, relate to, and can adjust to the perspectives of others. All leaders learn valuable lessons when they are open to see the significance of diversity of thought, perspective, and cultures. Exceptional leaders actually search out different perspectives and opinions which, in turn, challenge them and others to reach higher.

2. Great leaders plan ahead for cultural differences.

Highly effective multicultural leaders wisely avoid minimizing cultural differences and, better yet, plan for differences. Business guru Peter Drucker said it quite aptly, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” 

Leaders who work across cultures know, with certainty, that cultural differences will surface with interactions among employees, peers or customers. The best leaders will plan and help their teams to recognize and adjust to these cultural differences.

3. Great leaders foster personal connections and relationships while building trust.

Effective leaders foster positive relationships and trust. Shrewd leaders understand that the first step to building rapport and trust is establishing personal connections. The challenge is that blazing the path to constructive connections, rapport and trust is unique in each culture.

Great leaders proactively plan and prepare to build bridges, not walls. This starts with asking key questions, such as:

  • Does this culture expect a business-first or a relationship-first approach?
  • Do managers and employees interact in an equal or a hierarchical manner?
  • Are communication styles direct or indirect?
  • How does this culture value time?
  • How are decisions made and executed?
  • How do we move these diverse groups closer together?

Forging trust is a difficult and fragile concept, even in one’s own culture. Doing it in another culture takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and effort.

4. Great leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ). 

Successful multicultural leaders have high cultural intelligence (CQ), which is the capability to relate to and work effectively across cultures. The concept of cultural intelligence was developed by the work done by Ang and Van Dyne (2003) as a research-based way of measuring and predicting intercultural performance.

CQ can be thought of in the same way one considers an individual’s intellectual quotient (IQ) or emotional intelligence (EQ). These “quotients” are research-based measurements of human competence and capability. The remarkable thing about cultural intelligence is that it is malleable and can be increased. People with high CQ can lead, adapt or blend in more effectively within any environment than those with a lower CQ.

Mastering these key competencies will help multicultural leaders to successfully navigate cultural differences in this rapidly changing world.

Research has also shown that teams with higher levels of CQ are more successful. While homogenous teams will outperform diverse teams if both teams have low CQ, a diverse team with high CQ will outperform a homogenous team by an estimated factor of five. This concept can be crucial for leaders who are reaching for higher levels of innovation, productivity, profitability, speed, efficiency, employee engagement, marketing, and selling into cross-cultural markets. Cross-cultural explorers can take a CQ assessment to measure their baseline CQ levels and participate in training programs to enhance it, thus increasing their effectiveness across cultures.

Developing these four traits will help leaders understand and embrace the value of diversity and be most successful in this multicultural environment.

Originally published on Sharpheels.com/experts

 

5 Must-Have Skills for “Going Global”

I recently attended a renowned industry leader’s presentation where she described helping an entrepreneur launch his international start-up in India. She delivered a compelling talk about opportunities, challenges and lessons learned. What resonated for me during her talk was that the entrepreneur was adamant to only hire the BEST people into his new business. The first employee he recruited was an HR professional. I was the only HR person in the room and was (internally) grinning from ear to ear. This was another reminder that the common denominator for business and, in particular, when “going global” is PEOPLE.

As interest accelerates within small and mid-sized companies to expand globally, the need to dramatically increase global competencies is significant. Business, Finance and HR leaders must master a number of skills to become effective including:

  1. International management expertise and experience in areas such as:
    • Business structures
    • Competition
    • Political and economic environments
    • Finance and business issues such as contracts, taxation, intellectual property, and risk
    • Employment and leadership
    • Cultural norms, values and differences
    • Technology
  2. Global mindset combines an openness to and awareness of diversity across cultures and markets with a propensity and ability to see patterns across countries and markets. This mindset also includes the ability to deal with ambiguity and walk into unfamiliar business territory.
  3. Develop cultural intelligence (CQ) – CQ is the capability to function effectively across national, ethnic and organizational cultures. While the basics of global mindset mentioned above will get you in the door, enhancing your cultural intelligence (CQ) will keep you there. What works in one culture often times simply does not work in other cultures. Developing this skill is a must-have for successfully “going global”.
  4. Understand international labor differences – Employers handling employee labor issues overseas need to be careful to understand the variety of laws in the countries and localities where they operate. Common areas of differences are in employment contracts, overtime laws, data privacy, leave time, unions, noncompetitive agreements, and termination policies. All can be very different overseas and each country’s laws have their own issues.
  5. Effective handling of remote, dispersed talent and teams
    • Ensure remote workers are comfortable within your company – If possible, facilitate in-person or onsite visits to locations or with key employees.
    • Utilize technology to make collaboration easier – e.g., video conferencing, Skype, Yammer, cloud-based or web-based (always accessible) management tools.
    • Foster company culture – deliberate efforts to keep relationships and information flowing and accessible.

Back in the day, business owners who wanted to expand business operations may have added a location outside their own neighborhood into the next community. Times have changed. The world and the global market are wide open for those willing to go for it.

 

Recruiters Hate When Employers Take Care of Their Employees

custom_classifieds_12091All of us who are searching for great talent can feel the recruiting landscape becoming more difficult. Case in point, we recently started a search to fill a hard-to-find technical management position. We eagerly launched our campaign after developing a strategic recruitment plan where we engaged headhunters, large and boutique recruiting firms, tapped into our LinkedIn, social and personal networks, and posted on all the right sites.

In preparation for a slew of great candidates, we mobilized the interview troops and were ready to find our next game changer. On the Monday morning after our launch, we checked our applicant tracking system and Inboxes. What an underwhelming response! Ok, this was not going to be easy. We persevered and continued the search.

Finally, an outside agency came through and sent us the resume of the perfect candidate. (I’ll call her Jane.) Jane fit our profile exactly! We quickly set a phone call with her.

An hour before our scheduled call, the agency called. Jane had pulled herself from consideration. Of course I asked why. The headhunter explained Jane decided to stay with her current employer because the CEO and CFO approached her to let her know how much they personally appreciated her work and contributions. Then they sealed the deal with a meaningful clarification of her role, a promotion and a bump in her salary.

We had a little stretch left in our offer budget so I asked the obvious question, “What if we matched or exceeded her increase?” The agency rep confirmed what I already knew. It was too late. She already asked Jane the question and Jane informed her that she was going to stay. After all, the two most influential senior leaders acknowledged her contributions and gave Jane the recognition she needed. They went even further with designing meaningful work, promoting her and raising her salary to a satisfactory level.

I said to our rep, “I hate it when employers take care of their employees!”

Managers, HR and Leaders: We’re reminded again and again, if employers take care of the things that matter most to employees – good employees stay. Jane was ready to leave her employer. The employer intervened with the appropriate measures before it was too late.

Why employees leave are illustrated by Leigh Branham, author of “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”. In addition to the hidden reasons, Branham describes a number of “push” and “pull” factors that are the root causes why an employee leaves. “Push” factors are related to an issue originating within the workplace while “Pull” factors are related to an external attraction. Employers take notice. The top 20 reasons listed are “Push” factors which means they are related to something that is happening inside the workplace. Factors the employer has control over.

In Jane’s case, we extrapolated that her CEO and CFO addressed 14 out of the top 20 reasons that were “pushing” her to look somewhere else. They included: #1) Lack of trust in senior leadership #2) Insufficient pay #4) Company’s lack of concern for development #6) Unfair treatment #7) Lack of open communication #8) Lack of encouragement of input or ideas #11) Lack of opportunity for training and development #12) Lack of recognition #13) Lack of clear expectations #14) Uninteresting or unchallenging work #15) Pay not based on performance #18) Lack of encouragement of input or ideas #19) Unfair pay practices and #20) Uncertainty about job.

Our search goes on.

People are People Everywhere

Soweto, South AfricaWork takes me to many amazing and exotic destinations. The people and experiences I encounter are incredible. During this last visit to South Africa, we made sure on the weekend we saw some sites besides the inside of our office walls. We decided to visit the Apartheid Museum and the Nelson Mandela Family Home in the township of Soweto. I had a preconceived notion that visiting Madiba’s home would inspire me to write about “leadership”. Afterall, HR espouses about leadership all the time and Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential leaders our lifetime. Right? That notion quickly changed after spending the day with our tour driver, Davis.

One Saturday morning, we hired a car from the hotel to take us into the township of Soweto. For those who are too young or possibly don’t remember, Soweto is a township outside of Johannesburg where in the 1980s-90s was a place known for incredible violence, poverty and strife. Davis talked about the past when residents of neighboring townships would not dare to cross town lines for fear of being attacked or killed.

During tour through Soweto, Davis vividly described historical facts and stories about the people and sites we saw. He proudly described Nelson Mandela and how under his leadership and through his actions, people from different townships can now freely interact and connect with each other.

All of a sudden, right out of the blue, Davis pulled over to the side of the road and started speaking in Zulu or Xhosa to a female resident. Near the woman was a little girl smiling and sheepishly waving at us. Then without warning, the barefoot 5-year old, smiling and nodding, climbed into the front seat of our car. We asked Davis if he knew this family. He said ‘No, not really.” What?!  My colleague and I looked at each other in astonishment, thinking the same thoughts. What’s happening right now? Are we abducting a child?

With the little girl in the front seat, peeking and smiling at us, we drove about 20 yards and stopped at a small corner bungalow that sold food. We all got out and Davis bought the girl two bags of chips.He then brought a loaf of bread and a liter of soda.  By that time, the little girl’s mother had walked down to join us. Davis exchanged a few words with her and handed her the bread and soda. The little girl and her mom walked back to their home and we drove off to see the sites

Yes, I know, this event could have several explanations behind it. What I took away from this encounter dawned on me after what Davis told us the at the end of our 6-hour day.  He said he was so happy when he could take outsiders into Soweto. Davis said to us that he wants “outsiders” to see and experience that Soweto was not the unsafe or dangerous area that many believe.  He changed my perception and, I believe, he had this planned the whole time.

Connecting 17 Million HR Pros Around the World

global_network_300_wht_4738Hello World! It’s nice to meet you. My name is Connie Wedel and I am excited because this is my first blog entry.

After being in HR for a couple decades and meeting amazing people around the world, I thought it’s a great time for a few of us 17 million HR pros on the globe to connect with each other and share how people and HR are the same (and different) around the world. I thought there a great way to do this is with a blog platform to share stories.

I’ve been really fortunate to practice HR in six continents and meet talented HR folks from many places. So, my blog is HRwithoutBorders.com. Yeah, I sort of borrowed the idea from Doctors without Borders. I thought the concept fit perfectly with where I am in my career and what makes me tick. My hope is that HR without Borders will be a space to share and exchange our HR stories, knowledge, ideas, discussions, and challenges — all with a global flavor.

My journey has been an absolute gift…a two-decade career working across borders. Who could ask for more? I’ve been afforded the opportunity to travel the globe and work with smart, talented people from all over the world. I have also met amazingly gifted HR practitioners who are progressing the HR profession and learning from each other every day.

I wanted to share stories, ideas, challenges and opportunities with  you so I (finally) started this blog.  My vision is that learn from each other.  I pass on some of my own ideas, along with your great ideas, and some curated content of experts in the field.  Please feel free to send me your thoughts and ideas along the way. Thank you for letting me take a few minutes out of your busy day.

Cheers,
Connie