4 Things to Forget When Introducing Yourself Internationally

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Published on July 11, 2017, at 9:17 p.m. by Brie Carter.

You are hopping on a plane and ready to be immersed in your international adventure. Whether you are going to complete an internship, are on a work trip or are looking for a job, it is absolutely essential to know how to introduce yourself abroad.

From the moment we stepped foot on Earth, we have promoted ourselves, whether it be good or bad. We have the ability to be our own best advocates. With that thought in mind, use your power wisely. Promoting yourself back at home can seem easy like peanut butter and jelly at this point, but when going to a different country it can slice things up a bit.

Please use these four inconsiderate communication techniques as warnings. Make sure you stray away from these catastrophes when in a new country.

Photo by Pexels. A hand holding the world.

1. “Hi, I’m ____ and I work for (or came from) A Better Company Than You Inc.”

Title dropping. It’s good to begin a conversation with more than your name and be able to give the other person something to work off of. But when you are stating or enhancing your job title, people in this new culture might not be familiar with your position. They won’t know what you are talking about or have anything to compare it to. They also could find this abrupt introduction offensive, as if you are suggesting their company is the lesser of the two. This perception then could lead to a power trip and even bring up thoughts of whose country is better.

Positive spin: Make sure you aren’t simply reading off your business card. Explain what you do in a way they can understand and not just say your job title. Finally, set up your introduction in a way to let them easily think of a question to ask you to begin the conversation.

2. Here I come, cannonball!

Consider this scenario: Three people are already conversing. They may even be speaking in a different language. Don’t be that person who walks up and interrupts in the middle of someone’s sentence to introduce yourself. It suggests an attitude of “I don’t care what you are talking about; knowing me is more important.” Who knows, maybe they were just talking about how frustrating it is when people are abrupt. It might be better to save the wrecking ball entrance for Miley.

Positive spin: Knowing how to enter a conversation can be tricky with people who are from different countries than you, but identify how all the other locals are approaching conversations and mimic that behavior. Make sure they are exhibiting signs that they can be approached. Then enter and wait to be recognized.

3. Help me … I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.

You’re in a new culture and have no or little idea of what’s going on. Asking a bunch of questions, especially to the same people, can make you seem helpless. If you do this you will be portraying yourself as a one-stop project. Most likely they will be glad to direct you to a certain path, but these locals have their own things to worry about and are unlikely to have time to walk you around in a stroller. Being constantly needy is what pushes the locals away.

Positive spin: You want to be that person who leaves a positive impression. Even though you have lots of things to worry about, don’t forget to put the locals as the star of the show. Ask them questions about themselves and their country that don’t necessarily help you. You are in their home court and they want to show off their stuff. Have genuine interest in others and don’t simply be a taker.

4. Use a thumbs up.

Across the globe, body language is interpreted in many different ways. Certain gestures mean different things in other countries. In Arabic countries, a thumbs up has the equivalency of the middle finger in the U.S. and the OK sign in Brazil. Also, double check to see if anyone is crossing their legs during a meeting. Why? Because in Asia, it is offensive to show the bottom of your feet because they are considered dirty and unclean, implying that the person you are showing the bottom of your feet is below that. Think twice about shaking with your left hand. In most Muslim cultures, shaking with your left hand would upset them because that is the hand they wipe off with when they go to the bathroom. Get the point?

Positive spin: Understand basic localism. Do your research and, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

We have this power to promote ourselves wherever we are. Using our common sense along with research and observation can set ourselves up for success right from the beginning. Go on, take your journey by the hand but look and see which hand the locals are using.

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