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XII No.12 - Sunday June 16 - Saturday June 29, 2013

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Book Review: by Dr. Iain Corness

Your Essential Guide to Culture Shock

This book was reviewed six years ago, and was a very popular title. However, all the pitfalls are still present, so the book remains current. You may have to ‘amazon’ it.
Your Essential Guide to Culture Shock, SE Asia and the Orient (ISBN 974-7313-80-2) was published by the IQ Inc people and was compiled and edited by Jake Anthony.
The foreword states the obvious, in some ways - there are aching chasms of difference between the Oriental East and the Occidental West; however, editor Jake Anthony then highlights those appealing factors in the East, such as the cultural diversity and polite natures, saying that it is difficult to imagine better holiday locations, but when the reader is someone contemplating business, or settling in the East, the aching chasms appear again. In an attempt to bridge those chasms, or at least forewarn, this book has been written.
The countries covered are Burma, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
Make no mistake, this is not another of the “guides to …” which will tell you the cheapest bus to get to XYZ, and where you and your backpack can doss down for less than $5 a day. This is much more of a serious attempt to unravel the knotted conundrum of working with the Asian mentalities.
Like the usual guides, there is an initial grounding given on the size of the area, some historical facts which have a bearing on today, and other pertinent items, before getting into the nitty-gritty of visas, immigration, work permits, currency and getting around.
Following those general details, the book gets into ‘culture shock’ with each location. The oriental ‘face’ concept is explained in depth, and how it can affect all business dealings, especially those with foreigners. From there, the book covers ‘Essential business dealings’ and ‘Understanding local customs’, knowledge of all of which can also spell success or failure. Even what you should do when receiving business cards is covered, and I must admit I have been errant in that regard. I now know what to do!
Each country finishes with a list of all the public holidays, then trade fairs and some useful addresses and some contact phone numbers. Again this is extremely worthwhile data - coming to Thailand for a business trip on the first week of May would be very frustrating, with public holidays on May 1, May 5 and May 7.
At B. 450, this should be compulsory reading for anyone contemplating business in SE Asia. Understanding when “yes” means “maybe” and when “maybe” means “no” will cut short many weeks of fruitful/fruitless (delete whichever is appropriate) endeavors. Whilst many of the concepts/mores/customs are common, as the heritages are often common, there still lies appreciable differences between the countries and their inhabitants.
I found the book fascinating, and there was much to absorb. It was also interesting that all of the different countries have a word to describe the ‘big nosed white faced, smelly foreign devil’. Yes, that’s us folks! Definitely deserves a place in all business bookshelves.

No Angel

Having reviewed some autobiographies of rock stars recently, I was given a copy of a biography of one of Britain’s richest men, with the background being Formula 1 motor racing. The book, No Angel (ISBN 978-0-571-26936-5, Faber and Faber 2012), has as a subtitle “The Secret Life of Bernie Ecclestone,” the owner of the F1 rights, and these days a multi billionaire, but someone who came from an impoverished background, both financially and emotionally.
Written by Tom Bower, a journalist who has written biographies on people such as Sir Richard Branson, politician Gordon Brown and media magnate Conrad Black, he is well versed in ways of extracting information from the subjects of their biographies and people around them.
Bower describes Ecclestone’s childhood, one where celebrations such as birthdays were not held. An aunt did try on his eighth birthday and Ecclestone ran away, unable to emotionally handle a public display of affection. This was to become an integral part of his character, and still evident to the present day.
By the time he was 11, Ecclestone was already looking to raise himself from penury and was doing two paper rounds before school, using some of the money to buy biscuits and buns which he then sold in the playground at a 25 percent profit. At 11 years of age, he was already a hustler.
On leaving school having failed all subjects except mathematics, he was enrolled in a polytechnic college, but rather than study he bought fountain pens to sell to the other students - at a handsome profit, naturally. Bernie Ecclestone was a natural born entrepreneur.
From fountain pens, he graduated to motorcycles and then to secondhand cars. His sales technique was very much the ‘take it or leave it’ approach, one that he still employs with such corporate giants as the Formula 1 teams, and even the FIA (the governing body of motor sport).
The book does not gloss over Ecclestone’s underhand methods, even to going through rubbish bins in boardrooms to see what notes the other side were passing amongst themselves. Max Mosley, one time boss of the FIA was even moved to remark, “Bernie, you’re not a liar but your concept of the truth is different to other peoples.”
As Ecclestone’s grip over Formula 1 racing increased, it was evident that he was outsmarting all the teams, but since he had also increased their financial return, they were willing to go along with the flow, though getting angry at times with just how much Ecclestone was creaming off the business.
Of course, if you really want top level skullduggery, the donation by Ecclestone to Tony Blair (British PM) of one million GBP, to smooth the transition of tobacco advertising from being an outright ban, to being a phased in reduction to allow tobacco sponsorship to continue. The million was followed by an 800,000 GBP “loan” each year for three years (and you think corruption is bad in Thailand?).
Bower has written a fascinating tale of a man for whom there was only one ambition - winning the deal, the money was then going to follow.

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Your Essential Guide to Culture Shock

No Angel



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