Sales Travel Lessons – November 2017

This year has been the year of international travel for me.

As I write this I’m on my last overseas trip for the year, kicking off a new project in France.

As a sales expert, I watch interactions everywhere, and it’s fascinating to see how different cultures interact personally and professionally.

Here are some interesting observations:

Sidewalk Etiquette

Walking on the sidewalk internationally is a skill.

  • In Europe, it’s like a game of chicken, everyone walks in an orderly line but refuses to yield space to oncoming pedestrians. Someone (usually me) at the last minute is either bumped, turns sideways or must step off the curb to avoid a head-on collision.
  • Sao Paulo, on the other hand, is like playing Frogger. It’s pure chaos, people with people everywhere. But, everyone bobs and weaves like Frogger avoiding cars.
  • Japan is like ants marching 2×2. Everyone follows the rules and respects each other’s pace. Surprisingly, even though everyone is staring at their phones, no one ever gets hit!


  • I have found in France, especially, it’s perfectly normal to go to a cafe or restaurant by yourself, eat drink and sit all day with a book or a laptop. It’s a wonderful experience and I feel perfectly comfortable doing it. Not surprisingly, I am now writing this post while eating dinner alone at the amazing le Comptoir.
  • Mexico City has a gorgeous cafe culture but unlike France, I noticed that they were filled only with lively and gregarious groups, perhaps I would have been invited to join them when I came in alone?  I can’t wait to go back with Chris so I don’t feel like the only one in the city without a friend.
  • In Japan, the restaurants are small. Sometimes with only 4 tables. You show respect to the owner by eating, and leaving so that the table can be used for another group. No dawdling, ordering more drinks or sipping your tea slowly, as this is disrespecting the owner and his ability to serve others. Twice while in Tokyo we were told: “this is your last order!” When we realized there was a long line up outside, we ate fast, tipped well and left!

Dress Code

  • Hipsters and Harajuku aside, the average Japanese citizen is a more formal dresser than the average North American. No sneakers, or jeans. On the streets and in the subway it was all about fitted coats, loafers, skirts and tights. I made a note to dress better for our 2018 trip.
  • Nothing will make you feel more out of place than wearing “South Beach colors” in Paris and NYC. I made that mistake once…never again! The business dress code is dark suits, dark coats, dark shoes.
  • European men wear scarfs and brown shoes and look great. I wish North American men would embrace this trend.
  • Don’t take heels to Mykonos. You can barely walk in a wedge on the cobblestones. Instead, embrace the master shoemakers at Liontis. They are gorgeous, comfortable and indestructible. And, at $50 EU a pair, I’m mad that I didn’t buy a lifetime supply! Thankfully they ship internationally.


I’m fascinated by how unwalkable most of America is!

  • No one loves their cars more than Americans. This year I have run on more highways, in Walmart parking lots and around big box store development than ever before. Why? Becuase much of America doesn’t know that sidewalks are an actual thing.
  • Germans, especially Bavarians appear to eat nothing but meat, sausage and beer. Did I even see a vegetable other than a potato in 4 days? Yet, they are all tall, slim and in good shape. How can this be? They walk and cycle everywhere.
  • The 1000s of trains that run in Japan every day are nothing short of a masterpiece. The average daily delay is 31 seconds

Don’t simply brush this post off as travel fluff.

It’s critical as global sellers that we pay attention to the way other societies interact and thrive so that we can enjoy and respect their way of being in our business relationships.

[bctt tweet=”Being prepared and aware of international etiquette will always work in your favor.” username=”EngageColleen”]

P.S. Are you a speaker, trainer, consultant or small business owner? Don’t miss my upcoming limited-attendance event on creating never-ending value client relationships, presented along with Alan Weiss in Miami Beach! Learn more at: