Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The (Not So Ugly) American

The WSJ today (paid link) has a rather insulting article on Americans doing business overseas. Saying that Americans have a problem with their "image", the article gives some rather obvious pointers about doing business overseas like not discussing religion (gee, really?) and slowing down the speed you talk (wow, I thought talking louder would make those "ferners" understand me better).

Here is the email I wrote the author in response:

The "pointers" in your article pertain to anyone doing business anywhere, including Californians doing business in Texas. Good manners and respect for your hosts are Business 101. To insinuate that this is something American business people lack is insulting, at best.

You back up this "problem" with quotes from self-loathing Americans and one foreign quote on Walmart business practices in Germany - this a week after your own paper warned Americans that they need to adopt to foreign customs when overseas companies set up shop in the U.S. Walmart's business polices are hardly "proof" that traveling executives are perceived as anything but professional.

I have been doing extensive business in Asia for nearly a decade, and the only people I have found who have negative attitudes towards Americans are U.S. newspaper reporters.

Are there ugly Americans? Sure there are. There are also ugly Japanese, Chinese, French, and every other nationality under the sun. But no matter what the nationality and culture, there is one thing all business people undertake when traveling overseas for business: doing what it takes to close the deal. And 99% of the time that means doing the right thing from a cultural, respect and knowledge standpoint.

The "ugly American" may exist, but these are the tourists who are spending their hard earned money to dress in loud Hawaiian shirts and be obnoxious - and are the Americans foreigners most want to keep seeing and taking money away from.

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