If you read my last blog, you know I am just back from a two-month journey to China and Japan working with some incredibly talented people onboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. While the majority of our guests were Chinese (97%), the other 3% were International, sometimes from close to 25 other countries, with Australia, Germany, England and other Asian countries (Thailand, Malaysia, and Korea) as the most popular.

The front of house team I worked with were mainly Chinese, while the back of house technicians and support team were from all over the world. North Americans were rare, mostly part of the production casts who entertained on stage. While very few of the guests spoke English, all of the employees were required to speak English, as that was the main language for safety and security concerns.

So how was it to work with other cultures, especially when you don’t speak the language?

In a word, incredible!

A great learning experience that will help in all aspects of my life. I have always said that traveling is the best education one can get, and this was no exception. To be able to try to communicate with people you have only seen in photos and read about opens up doors that I could not have imagined.

The best way to integrate with other cultures is to prepare. Are you going to their country or are they coming to yours? Have you read up on some of their customs? What foods do they prefer? Are they huggers, hand shakers or neither? Do they make eye contact when speaking?

Unfortunately, some of our international guests were not as enthusiastic as I was.

They were not prepared for the differences they encountered and it affected their stay, which was a shame. The international guests who were prepared, and kept an open mind said it was one of their best experiences.

Some of the differences I had to get used to included loss of personal space (they like to get close), people getting on an elevator before letting others off, talking during shows and smoking.

But the biggest takeaway: they love their smartphones more than we do. I know that’s saying a lot, but they are always on their mobile phones, taking pictures, messaging and talking. They make us look like minor leaguers.

When dealing with other cultures, keep these points in mind:

  • Culture is relative, so what may seem outlandish or different to you is normal to them. Look at it this way: what you see as normal (having cereal or eggs for breakfast) might seem foreign to them, where rice and meat is the norm.
  • Be curious and open to possibilities. Be open-minded and know that your way of doing things is not the only way. Seeing how others live and how happy they are puts things in perspective, and sometimes leads to a happier life for you filled with gratitude.
  • Do things that take you out of your comfort zone. Explore new places, try new foods and go out on your own. Be smart about it (any city in the world can be dangerous if you don’t prepare), but do it. Take off expensive jewelry, don’t bring wads of cash, and keep your phone close to you.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Some of the nicest people I met were locals who were willing to help.
  • Observe and be aware of people and places around you. Some of the best moments and photographs happened when I least expected it.

There is so much more to tell, and that will be happening in future posts. But the one takeaway is simple. People are people the world over (I know, what a revelation!) who are looking for the same thing: a chance to live a life filled with dignity, respect, and hope.

There is only one race: the human race.

Are we really that much different?

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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