It may seem obvious that every country and its people are different. Customs, manner of greeting, and posture. It is always a special challenge visiting a ‘new country and city’ to meet a client or candidate for the first time. Helsinki, Prague, Budapest, Stockholm, Paris, Milan, Munich, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, and other locations all have special memories. Every country has its own traditions and every town and city has its own special uniqueness. In Paris I was advised there was ‘only one city in France’ and in Munich, the next city is Milan; a similar lifestyle posture; Gioia Della vita.
Being fascinated by different cultures and how in this case an ‘Englishman abroad’ is perceived, I always asked for honest and genuine comments.
In Paris, perhaps my favorite city, I enjoyed a splendid discussion with an individual. I asked what the obvious differences are with an English business professional and other nationalities. After a thoughtful pause, it seems that the English tend to hide their emotions (stiff upper lip) so it is difficult to know what he/she is thinking. An Italian is more demonstrative and gesticulates. In Germany, there is an initial formality and in France (Paris in this case) the dialogues were open and friendly. Again, every individual is different; unique.
In Helsinki, I asked a business person how he perceived the people in Finland. I was advised that initially, they are very reserved until they feel comfortable with the situation. Then they open up and become friends or business associates for life.
I have always regarded my extensive travel to many European countries and engaging with country managers. hiring managers and candidates as a supreme privilege. Also, a bonus to my development as a Pan-European search consultant focused on American companies. Later, following retirement, the natural and spontaneous synergy when meeting anyone from other countries still fills me full of joy. I simply have to ask where a person comes from and should the answer be Paris, the conversation would meander; talking about one brasserie after another. Especially Brasserie Lipp, Boulevard Saint Germain! And there exists an anecdote to be described in another article!
Cafe Les Deux Magots, Place Saint-Germain de Pres. Sitting enjoying an espresso coffee, watching the world go by. Just at the side of this delightful cafe is a very special drinking water fountain. There is a similar water fountain outside (on the right, facing the front entrance) at Wallace Collection in Manchester Square in London. A number of these drinking water fountains were presented to the citizens of Paris by the Hertford Family, founders of the Wallace Collection. Indeed the Hertfords held a family seat as Lords of the Manor. After in Battle of Hastings in 1066, William Duke of Normandy, having prevailed over King Harold, granted most of Britain to his victorious barons. King William 1st as he became, was also responsible for commissioning Winchester Cathedral; the one thousand-year-old icon.
The Wallace Collection is my favorite museum and art gallery. Richard Wallace (1818 – 1890) and Baronet in 1871, shared the interest of his father (Richard Seymour-Conway, the 4th Marquess of Hertford (1800 – 1870) in collecting works of art. My most admired works of art are by Horace Vernet, depicting the atmosphere of The Battle of Waterloo. ‘The Dog of the Regiment Wounded’. Thick clouds of gunpowder behind the French soldiers as the tended to a little dog. Very moving. Most special. Another is ‘The Wounded Trumpeter’ where a white horse, its head lowered at looking aghast at the wounded soldier. I have been to and climbed The Lion’s Mound in Waterloo, Belgium. Climbing to the top, the locations of the numerous key events during The Battle of Waterloo are pointed out by a directional table. The crops remain the same. The imagination becomes almost a reality as one visualizes the long bayonets of the French soldiers poking above the tall crops.
Flying was certainly more pleasurable at that time, and I was typically in one country or another every week.
One thing I did notice was the initial greeting at say SSA’s (later taken over by Infor) Paris office, where everyone would shake hands each day on arrival. This ‘ceremony’ represented the renewal of the business relationship.
In Paris, near the Eiffel Tower, where the police changed shifts, they all shook hands with one another. It was the same at the hotel I stayed at. The Concierge always shook hands and I was warmly welcomed. Again, very special and never taken for granted.
The next chapter of First Impressions will address the joy of simultaneous multi-country assignments. and also my experience recruiting in Sweden, Spain, and Italy, and the people I had the honor of engaging with.