Cultural sensitivities to keep in mind when doing business in Asia

Anybody who has been paying attention to markets over the past couple of decades can tell you that emerging markets is where its at when it comes to getting great returns.

Most industries in developed parts of the world have reached or passed the maturation phase, making the creation of real wealth effectively impossible for most investors.

However, many growth economies can still be found in Asia. From China to Indonesia, those willing to dive in head first have a great chance of finding investment opportunities that could earn them a considerable return on their cash.

However, life here is completely different compared to the West, making it challenging for new arrivals to adjust to the way business is done there.

Bob Stefanowski has built up significant experience in Asia, helping to run 3i Group’s interests in the region since 2009.

In that time, he has come to understand the special considerations one must make when trying to establish a foothold in this challenging part of the world.

In this post, we’ll go over several concepts you’ll need to comprehend before you can enjoy real success in Asia.

1) Rules vary greatly compared to those at home

As alluded to in the intro, the way things are done in Asia often represents a complete 180 to how we do things at home.

These societies have been influenced by schools of thought and religions like Confucianism, Buddhism, and Islam. As such, there are cultural considerations that can serve to throw an unexpected monkey wrench into your plans.

Planning meetings on a Friday won’t work in the Middle East, as this is the Sabbath Day in the Islamic calendar.

Even things like touching people on the head and pointing with your feet can get you into trouble in laid back countries like Thailand, as these gestures are highly offensive to Buddhists.

Have an executive assistant do in-depth research on a target country’s cultural beliefs before departure, as this will allow you to leave a good first impression.

2) Hand out business cards printed in their local language

An initial meeting might not end with a business deal. As such, it is always important to leave a new prospect your contact info.

Most do this by leaving their card, but few think to create a special batch before taking off for a place like China.

Your initial contact may understand English, but if your card is passed off to someone who only knows Mandarin, they won’t be able to get in touch with you.

By printing the other side in a second language, you expand your reach, and you leave a positive impression with those who know English as a second language.

3) Learn about the concept of ‘face’

Of all the things you’ll learn before heading off to Asia, the concept of ‘face’ is the most important concept you should internalize.

It is a sociological concept which refers to one’s personal or family prestige. Many people in Asian countries are obsessed about how others view them, leading them to go to extraordinary lengths to build up a reputation and to protect it.

Any action that may embarrass your hosts should be avoided at all costs. Avoid putting your contacts on the spot, as they may say yes even if they might not be able to deliver. If they fail, they’ll end up losing face, which could have bad consequences for you.

Instead, be patient in your dealings with Asian business contacts, and you’ll eventually end up in a situation where you will be able to get what you want.

World’s Best Festivals One Shouldn’t Miss

Part of the fun of travel is the chance to participate in another way of life. There’s no better means of doing this than to get involved with one of the many colorful festivals taking place each year around the globe. Whichever continent you’re heading to, there’s sure to be something fantastic. Here, we look at five of the best.

Rio de Janeiro Carnival, Brazil
This needs no introduction. Attracting more than two million party-goers daily onto the streets of Rio de Janeiro, it runs for six days at the beginning of Lent. Rio’s samba schools are the driving force, and their colorful floats and dancers pack the streets for the main parade. However, the carnival also includes plenty of other festivities, in which anyone can join in and show off their samba moves.

Maralal Camel Derby, Kenya
If you find yourself in Kenya in August, you might want to head north to the small desert town of Maralal for its camel derby. Attracting participants and spectators from all over the world, competition is intense, although some riders show better control over their camels than others.

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MassKara Festival, Philippines
The Philippines is not yet a regular stop on the backpacker trail but you’ll be missing out if you don’t go. So much the better if you can time your visit around the MassKara festival. Held in Bacolod City and named for the smiling masks worn by participants, it includes a street dance competition, a beauty pageant and music. Characterized by the friendliness of its participants, it’s a popular festival so accommodation requires planning ahead. Luckily, real estate in the Philippines is booming, and you can easily find the best condos on Zipmatch, whether you want to rent or to buy.

The Venice Carnival, Italy
Dating back to the fourteenth century, Venice’s annual carnival is Europe’s oldest. Beginning after Christmas and running until the day before Lent, it attracts more than three million visitors annually. Many are tempted by the bright masks worn by carnival-goers, some of whom may be hoping to carry away the prize awarded to the most beautiful mask. Originally introduced to blur the distinction between the nobility in their fine clothes and ordinary people who could never hope to afford garments of the same quality, the masks remain popular today among Venetians and tourists alike.

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Holi, India
Marking the victory of good over evil, this Hindu festival of colors is celebrated in the north of India during the full moon in March. Unwary travelers venturing onto the streets can expect to return to their hostel or hotel with their clothes covered in brightly colored powder, or soaking wet from water balloons. However, this is still one of the best and most exuberant festivals in the world. People of all ages flock into the streets to perform religious rituals in front of huge bonfires, exchange greetings, dance and, yes, throw handfuls of colored powder around.

The Most Comfortable Night’s Sleep Money Can Buy In Singapore

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a president or a princess, a sultan or a king? While it’s unlikely most of us will reach these stations in life, that doesn’t mean we can’t live like a king or a queen – at least for a few nights.

Luxury hotels are designed to cater to their guests’ every whim, creating a space that is both lavishly opulent and endlessly comfortable. Whether offering butler service or massages on your private balcony, these testaments to exclusivity provide everything you could possibly want, day and night.

If you happen to be travelling to Singapore, and are searching for an exquisitely comfortable night’s rest, look no further. For anyone in need of some inspiration, this is what it’s like to stay in one of the finest luxury hotels in Singapore.

A Sense of Refinement

Looking out onto the dazzling Marina Bay waterfront, The Fullerton Bay Hotel enjoys prime positioning within Singapore’s vibrant heritage precinct. Paying heed to the elegance and culture of yesteryear, this is a hotel that embodies sophisticated refinement.

Honoured with a position within the top one per cent of hotels in Singapore by TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2017, The Fullerton Bay Hotel combines personalised service and exquisite facilities within a magnificent setting.

And what about that view? With its enviable waterfront location, this charming hotel provides perfectly picturesque views over Marina Bay from many of its rooms and suites, but perhaps none more so than the Presidential Suite.

Luxuriate the Senses

Guests staying in the luxurious Presidential Suite can enjoy a panoramic view of the Marina Bay waterfront and city skyline from both the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows in every room, and from the privacy of the suite’s exclusive balcony.

Imagine looking out onto the shimmering water at sunset, watching as reds, pinks and oranges soar across the sky. Observe as one-by-one, lights within Singapore’s towering buildings illuminate the cityscape – all from the tranquil retreat that is the Presidential Suite.

Sprawling across 152 square metres, the suite is spacious and perfectly laid out. Lavishly appointed, it is decked out in opulent golden acer, with rosewood wall panels, creamy marble and perfectly positioned embellishments of tasteful artworks.

Guests can relax in the generous living and dining area, unwind in the lounge and game room, or get some work done in the study. Come night time, they can shut out the world within the tranquil bedroom, sink into bed to luxuriate in Egyptian cotton quality linen, enfolded in a glorious goose down duvet and pillows.

There is just so much to love about living as a king or queen – or indeed, as a president. From helpful services such as express checkout and a shoe shine service, to customised Bottega Veneta collection room amenities and complimentary IDD calls to 15 selected countries, these are the little things that make a stay in the Presidential Suite an exceptional experience.

But really, whether staying in the opulent Presidential Suite, or any of the other beautifully appointed hotel suites and rooms, each stay at The Fullerton Bay Hotel is bound to be more than a little special.

Your Guide to the ‘Festival Of Colors’ 

The festival of colors as many of us know it, is actually an Indian festival called Holi which, whilst celebrated by many around the World, is observed largely by the Hindu faith. The celebration involves the throwing of colored powder over others who are celebrating and after being such a large hit across India, the festival is now celebrated in many countries across the World.

You may have had an experience with the festival of colors but may not know exactly why the festival is celebrated or how the celebrations and traditions came about. Read on to find out more about the festival of Holi.

What is Holi

Holy is a festival that takes place between  the second and third week of March and coincides with the Phalgun Purnima or full moon each year that signifies the the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The celebrations of the festival are all about fun, pleasure and happiness and are representative of good beating evil or in this case, spring beating winter. The festal lasts for 2 whole days and is celebrated throughout India and Nepal.

Celebrations and Traditions

Most parts of the celebrations that take place over these two days are indicative of happiness, one is encouraged to play, laugh and more importantly to repair broken relationships and to forgive and forget.

The origin of the celebrations comes from Prahlada who was a worshipper of Vishnu and the son of  Hiranyakashipu, a man given an indestructible boon and believed that he was god-like. Prahlada suffered a cruel life but his faith prevented him from being injured. Prahlada’s aunt tricked him into sitting on a pyre with her but she was wearing a fire-proof cloak, the fire burned and the cloak flew from his aunt and covered the boys body. When his aunt died his father smashed a pillar with his mace and Lord Vishnu appeared and killed him. The next day, when peace was restored, the people covered their faces in the ash of the fire and this is where the traditions of covering each other in color comes from.

Traditions

The traditions kick off with bonfires on the eve of Holi and for weeks beforehand the locals will collect firewood for the bonfires. On top of the bonfires the locals will place an effigy of Holika, who famously tricked Prahalad onto the fire.

On the morning of Holi, colored water, chalks and paints are thrown around with careless abandon, all of those celebrating will be covered in color as they sing and dance.

The evening of Holi is spent cleaning up and bathing to wash away the colors and this when the ritualistic forgiveness takes place.

Elsewhere

The celebration is enjoyed all over the World at different times of the year although the only tradition that is really carried out is the throwing of colors, this has less religious connotations and is more about people enjoying themselves and being covered in bright colors.

Your Guide To ‘The Vegetarian Festival’ in Phuket, Thailand

One of the most eclectic, awe-inspiring and interesting festivals in Thailand is the vegetarian festival that takes place in Phuket each year. If you are interested in crazy festival and haven’t yet heard about or been to the vegetarian festival in Phuket, then read on and find out about this zany festival that is about far more than eating vegetarian food.

When The Festival Takes Place

Usually the festival takes place around October time, the dates change as the festival falls in line with the Chinese lunar calendar and hits on the 9th month within that calendar.

What is the Festival All About

The idea of the festival is that the Chinese believe that a 10-day diet of vegetarian food and scared rituals will cleanse the should and earn merits for the afterlife. The festival forms one of the parts of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival that takes place across Thailand.

Rituals and Traditions

During the festival, those practicing must where white during the 10 day period and undergo a strict vegetarian diet. The idea is to a complete cleanse of the body which also means no sex or alcohol. Some are exempt from the festival which includes those who are in mourning and women who are going through the process of menstruation or pregnancy.

Mediums will go into a trance-like state as the channel the deities and serve to rid those practicing of bad luck and bad fortune.

During the festival, people will aim to cleans their bodies by going to extraordinary lengths such as putting spikes through their faces, swelling swords and walking on fire.

Where the Festival is Held

Many of the traditions like fire-walking take place on the streets of Phukets but the majority of the rituals will take place a handful of the 40 Temples throughout the city. The Kathu Shrine is the holiest temple in Phuket and and this is where the origins of the vegetarian festival are. Thousands of practitioners will gather at the Kathu Shrine as they seek to rid themselves of bad luck and evil throughout the festivities.

The Closing of the Festival

At the end of the festival there is a huge fireworks display, this is also when the most ‘grotesque’ acts take place by those observing the festival and the final day of the festival is dedicated to prayer and worship as well as the ‘merit-making’ events. The end of the festival culminates in a party-like atmosphere with singing and dancing.

If you were to look online at this festival you will probably just see images of the gory merit-making that takes place but the festival is about far more than that. If you decide to head down to Phuket for the festival you will need to ensure that you remain respectful to the locals, this is an important festival for them and one which could dictate their future. By all means enjoy the festival, but look to keep your distance.

Your Guide To The ‘Songkran Festival,’ in Thailand

You may have heard of a giant water fight that takes place in Thailand every year,  what you have probably heard about is the incredible water fight that takes place in Chiang Mai each year to celebrate Songkran. Whilst this water festival is a key part of Songkran, the festival itself is much more than that and today we are going to take a look at what the festival is, how it is celebrated and what makes the festival so special to the people of Thailand.

What is Songkrann

Songkrann is a celebration of the Thai New Year, the festival takes place on the 13th, 14th and 15th of April each year and it signifies the end of winter and the beginning of the spring. The etymology of the word Songkran comes from the Sanskrit word ‘saṃkrānti’, which means astrological passage and the festival coincides with Aries rising on the charts of astrology. There are a great deal of traditions which take place to herald in the New Year and many rituals which the Thai people make in order to ensure they have the most successful year that they can.

Traditions and Rituals

Some of the symbolic traditions which take place during Songkran are the visiting of temples and taking food to Buddha, pouring water on the statues of Buddha as a cleansing process is also performed and many people who have moved away from their families will return to be with them to signify unity. Pouring water on the hands of elders by the younger members of the family is also something that is heavily practiced by way of showing respect.

The Water Festival

The most famous aspect of the Songkran tradition is the water festival, the one which you may have heard about in Chiang Mai has gained such notoriety as a result of its popularity amongst tourists but these festival take place throughout Thailand.  The water festival is an extension of the cleansing of Buddha statues and signifies the Spring-cleaning aspect of this time of year. In many cities and towns throughout Thailand you will find locals showering each other in water from water tanks and guns or even just throwing buckets of water over each other by way of celebration and purification.

Aside from the water festivals, you may also see chalk being thrown over people. This custom has its origins in the monastery as monks used to place chalk on one another as part of the blessing process.

Influences

The festival of Songkrann is heavily influenced by the Hindu festival Holi, the mixture of chalk and water for example are very familiar to the customs used in Holi and even the names are similar in their traditional languages.

Songkrann is a great festival to be part of and you can join the Thais in heralding in their New Year in style the next time that you are in Thailand.

Your Guide To ‘The Snow And Ice Festival’ in Harbin, China

China’s northeastern city of Harbin is the home to one of the most impressive snow and ice sculpture festivals in the World. This frigid and frosty city drew more than one million visitors last year who all came to witness the exhibitions of some incredible ice sculptors who create some of the most stunning exhibitions of snow and ice that you are ever likely to see. The size, intricate nature and creativity that goes into each of the sculpture simply needs to be seen to be believed and here we give you a run down of what you can expect on a trip to Harbin’s Snow and Ice Festival.

When?

Officially speaking, the festival begins on the 5th of January and lasts for a month, with that being said, it is worth noting that weather permitting, the festival begins early and finishes later than the advised dates.

Where?

Within the city of Harbin, you will find displays and sculptures throughout the city but there are two main exhibition areas where you will be able to find the main events. The first exhibition location is Sun Island, this exhibition is on the other side of the Songhua River from the city and is where you will find some enormous and gargantuan sculptures.

The other exhibition location is  Ice and Snow World which is a nighttime space where you can be struck in awe by illuminated and full sized buildings which have been built entirely from snow and ice.

What Can You Expect?

Other than stunning sculptures of buildings, famous landmarks and cartoon characters, you will see a whole city which is dominated by the festival, regular lantern processions, ice skating activities, ice shows, skiing and even winter swimming are all features of this festival.

As you might imagine, you can also expect very cold temperatures as this area of China receives its temperatures from Siberia, lows of -30 degrees are the norm around this time of year.

What’s it About?

The festival does not have any deep religious or culture connotations, it is more of a why not festival and it has been around since 1963. The sculptors used to be only Chinese but in recent years the festival has international status and as such it attracts master sculptors from all over the World.

How Do They Make The Sculptures?

The ice is dragged from the frozen Songhua River by huge teams with very big saws, the sculptors then use a huge range of tools to sculpt the blocks of ice into incredibly fine pieces of art in the days running up to the festival. The sculptors also utilize deionized water which is frozen and produces crystal clear glass-like ice which adds an incredible element to their creations. To add color to proceedings, artists will add a serious of multicolored lights behind their creations to give the incredible detail to their work.

This festival will leave you completely awe-struck and possible with a  little frostbite but you will never see anything else like it on the planet.