Get Oriented

Work with a local counterpart. If your organization has an office in Asia, find a local colleague to help you, urges Vickie Kress of SoftBrands. "That person can help you overcome cultural and linguistic challenges—and I'm sure you get a better rate that way!"

Meet and eat. Asians like to discuss business over a meal, says Kam Junejo of Adagio Conventions. "It's very important not to do business on the trade-show floor," he warns. "In America, we buy and sell on the floor all the time, but Asians prefer to exchange cards and set up a meeting for later, preferably during lunch or dinner. Also, unlike in America, Asian companies rarely send decision-makers to trade shows."

Be aware of business differences. Hotels in Asia typically charge for meeting space, warns Kress, and getting a 24-hour hold is uncommon: "It becomes an added negotiation point." On the other hand, Asian hotels are well known for turning meeting rooms over quickly, says Jane Schuldt of Pacific World: "They're very efficient, since they do it twice a day."

Bring gifts. In many Asian countries, tips and gratuities are neither expected nor accepted, says Jody Egel of the Million Dollar Round Table. Instead, bring souvenirs of your hometown; Egel hands out coffee-table books on Chicago to locals she wants to build relationships with.

Arrive early and stay late. If you can, get to your meeting site two to three days early, to get familiar with the venue and adjust to jet lag, suggests Kress. "And after your program's over, enjoy some local culture—even in industrial cities in China, the cultural opportunities are incredible."

Be yourself. Thanks to satellite television, Asians are typically much more familiar with American culture than we are with theirs, says Junejo. "They like American culture, so Americans needn't go overboard in being culturally accommodating." Translation? "It depends on your business relationship, of course, but they might like it if you wore jeans!"