There’s an image around the world of what is known as “the ugly American.” This fictional creature travels the world, both on business and as a tourist, and tells everyone in every country he visits that they’re wrong. According to him, they’re wrong because they don’t do things our way, they don’t look like us, they don’t do business like us, and they don’t talk like us; they’re just plain wrong.
I’ve found that no matter where I go, the people of that country do things the way they do them for a good reason. It may not seem like a logical reason to me at first, but once I take the time to know what’s behind their reasoning, it always makes sense.
Most people really don’t want to be offensive to Americans, they really don’t. In fact, most of the people in the world look up to us, try to imitate us, and would like nothing better than to be us. The problem is, that we tend to go around the world offending them.
There is an easy way to eliminate the myth of the ugly American, at least in your own personal life and business. That is to take the time to learn a little bit about the people and the country that you are visiting. Lean something of their history, their culture, even learn about their lifestyle if you can. Finally, learn to speak at least a few key phrases in their language. You don’t have to speak them perfectly, nor do you have to speak a lot. But being able to say a few things will make a world of difference.
In most countries (there are a few notable exceptions, like France) the people love it when we try and speak their language. You see, that shows you care about them as a people and as individuals. It is a way of showing honor to them, instead of coming across as if you are trying to show superiority. That one thing can make the difference between success and failure in your overseas business expansion.