Submitted by Chuck Dukhoff on
First: A huge thank you to the entire Manager Tools community. I discovered MT about a year and a half ago. My job performance has dramatically improved since, leading to several great opportunities that I credit to following advice from the MT podcasts, blogs and forums. Thanks to you all.
I am on the verge of my first international trip and am looking for practical advice. My company (located in Denver, CO) has decided to send me to Mongolia to set up new equipment and train staff. The success of this project has huge implications on my career. I am very confident in my ability to fix the current problems in the organization, set up the new equipment and train the staff. What I am stressed out about is the travel and cultural differences.
I would welcome any advice on international travel (airports, customs, packing, language, anything) and if anyone is familiar with Mongolia business/customs I would greatly appreciate any wisdom you may be willing to share.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Chuck, I have fairly
I have fairly extensive experience traveling in Europe, none elsewhere, so I can't offer any specific advice for Mongolia.
This is what I would do:
* Buy a travel guidebook to Mongolia (Lonely Planet might be your only option) and read the introductory sections and appendices. Lots of good information will be in here regarding customs and travel logistics.
* Learn to say as many of the following in the local language. Get CDs if possible, otherwise look at the phonetic pronunciations in the guidebook.
Numbers from 1-10
(You get bonus points if you can say "I don't speak Mongolian" No need to learn "Do you speak English?" in Mongolian. Ask in English, and if they understand, they'll say yes.)
It doesn't matter if you say them well. It only matters that you try. 99% of all travelers never bother to learn simple phrases like these. They will appreciate the effort! Stumble through it, and...
Good luck and have fun,
(up the road from you in Fort Collins)
Thank you for the response Rich,
One of the first things I did when I found out I might get the nod to go to Mongolia was download a program called "BYKI" they have a free version of their language program that is very helpful. The paid version goes into grammar and more advanced learning. For me the free version (basically just flash cards with audio) should be enough to get by.
Any thing I should look out for as far as international flights go? I fly out of DIA regularly, but never any farther than Peoria. Have any road warrior tricks of the trade?
Don't forget the phrase
Adding to Rich's advice, add "Can I give you some feedback...?"
Don't forget the phrase
And, of course, "Thanks for the feedback." :)
Give yourself more time at the airport, until you know the ropes. I don't know DIA, but security and passport control vary greatly and the latter can add time. Expect that getting through passport control and customs (not the same thing!) at the other end of your trip will also take a lot of time. Patience contributes to good mental health.
Do you have your Visa? Get working on that if you don't. You'll need one.
Have slips of paper printed in Mongolian on one side and English on the other; some with the address of your hotel and others with your workplace, in case your taxi driver doesn't speak English.
Is there a colleague in Mongolia who speaks both languages? If so, you might connect with them ahead of time to find out details about the locale, etc.
Follow the MT packing advice. Checked bags are likely to get lost, so be prepared (or don't check bags).
Get to your local travel clinic. You may need shots, etc (for example, I don't think Mongolia is a malaria zone, but the travel clinic will know).
Be prepared for airport security, etc to look much different than it is here. And make sure you have printed copies of all your travel documents (itinerary, passport, visa, hotel address & phone number, name & phone # of whomever is picking you up at the airport, etc). When I was returning from India, I needed to show my passport & a printed copy of my itinerary to heavily armed security before I could enter the airport grounds. And again before I could enter the terminal.
Find out what you'll need for electrical/electronic items. Looks like the European plug/socket format is used in Mongolia and it's 220-240 volts. Many laptop power supplies can handle multiple voltages/frequencies, but you will need a plug adapter.
I echo John Hack's suggestion of hardcopy pages with important addresses in English and the local language(s).
My experience suggests it is better to have one address on each side of the page, in all relevant languages. That makes it easy to be certain you're pointing at the right address. If there are multiple languages involved, the cab driver will just use the one he understands best. (My experience with this technique is English / Hebrew / Arabic)
Printing those pages on company letterhead rather than plain paper may be helpful, too.
Prepare pages with addresses for hotel, any work sites, and the airport for return. If you know there are other places you will be going, it won't hurt to have those addresses prepared, too.
I haven't traveled with it yet, but the newest Google Translate smartphone app looks very useful. Mongolian isn't a listed language, but two versions of Chinese are included. It has the ability to load some phrases into local memory, so you don't have to have a network connection to use it.
Be prepared for jet lag. If you can schedule your trip to have a couple days to adjust to local time before you do anything critical, you'll be happier. Plan that adjustment for both coming and going, and expect it to take a surprisingly long time to fully adjust. Estimate one day per time zone crossed - you'll be functional before that, but it really does take that long for full adjustment.
Make plans for how to communicate to family back home, and how they can get you in emergency. Make sure everyone understands the time difference! Do you need to get a different cell phone? Or rent one when you arrive? How about internet access for Skype or other chat facility?
Do you need to consider company proprietary data on your laptop? At some borders your laptop may be confiscated if there is encrypted data that can't be inspected. You may need to make arrangements to transfer data after arrival - and if Mongolia is behind the Great Firewall of China, you may have interesting issues there - talk to your company IT people.
And make time to take advantage of the travel to see something of the area outside of work! Meet some people, go to restaurants, visit sites of cultural interest. Avoid political discussion with the locals, but do engage them in talking about their country. You can make some great friends you never expected.
And don't forget to source medical
Find out a couple of english speaking doctors, about walk in clinics, pharmacies, if you can get meds or OTC stuff you need etc and try to introduce yourself to them before you need them.