I would usually write personal travelogues titled ‘A day in Thimpu‘. But I’d rather use something like ‘Singapore in a day’ when writing about business travel. The pun, only to demystify business travel along with the craziness & hazards that surrounds it. As soon as one steps in IT, the first thing they want is to get onsite and I felt the same way. But the excitement only lasts the first few trips. This one is about one such trip to Singapore last month, where I took a late night flight after a day’s work, and headed straight to a meeting on landing. I’ve done such meetings multiple times, in every direction, in every continent, and have kind of mastered it.
I’ve learned some fascinating & exemplary stories about discipline & honesty in Japan through Quora. When the time came to visit Tokyo, I felt that I should familiarize myself with some Japanese etiquette. And I must say that a few minutes of reading came in very handy during the trip. Here is what I’ll keep with me forever:
1. Respect everything
Handle everything with both hands, especially money. Most counters will have a tray next to the ledger where you are expected to place money & pick your change. I guess the practice of receiving business cards with both hands comes from here.
2. Avoid 4 & 9 in every way
The Japanese word for “four” sounds like the word for “death” whereas ‘nine’ is sometimes pronounced ‘ku’, which can mean suffering. Its a superstitious piss-off; I don’t know how many follow, but I would avoid a 4 piece gift or a sales offer with too many nines.
3. Go with the group
Generally, the Japanese believe in group decision making that is focused on the larger good. This avoid favorism and blocks in-ways in an integral group – possibly why Japan was never colonized. This could slow down the process, but that’s how it is.
4. Genuine customer focus
Here’s my story: I went to the information counter at HND airport around 7:25 asking for a bus to my destination. The lady said the next one is at 10am. I had read about one at 7:45 and asked her to check; when she realized there was one, she apologized at least thrice for the possible misguide. She then realized that there was very little time left and I possibly couldn’t make it to the bus stop after getting my bus & train tickets. She, in her kimono and modified geta, ran to help me with tickets and brought me all the way to the bus stop around 7:38am. That was perhaps one of the happiest moments of her life Continue reading 10 learnings from Japan→
1. Keep copies of travel docs
Nothing is worse than losing your passport or tickets and getting stranded in foreign land. Always keep a copy of your passport in every piece of baggage. An extra copy of air ticket & visa won’t hurt if you recycle them when you return.
2. Distribute your currency
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket; spread money across your bags and some in your wallet. Use a spare purse or a self-sealing bag to keep the currency of the port you’re leaving that you can move back in when you return.
3. Check local weather
Weather can be a real spoiler. Quite a few parts of Asia & Europe are infamous for random showers. Be prepared. A folding umbrella or a monkey cap – or at least, the right pair of shoes – can really save a day.
4. Know about your consulate
It is essential to know how your country is represented in places you are visiting. It could be an embassy, a consulate or served by the diplomatic mission of another country. Fortunately, I have never had to use this information. But this is the first place and your last resort if shit hits the roof.
5. Download offline maps on your device
Avoid messy paper maps by downloading local road & public transport information on your smartphone, tablet or pad. If Google doesn’t let you, use Maps (-) on Android to save maps offline. And then if you have a local SIM, Continue reading 10 international air travel tips→