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Tamara Clay -The Practice of Business

I have been a working professional in the United States for the past 18 years. I’ve learned the rules of business etiquette and I know my way around corporate politics. As a business attorney, I now rely on that experience to assist my clients with legal strategy as they grow their own companies.

However, there was one thing I was not familiar with…International business. As the world becomes smaller and companies become more global, I knew that this was something with which I needed to familiarize myself. I falsely presumed that business practices were fairly similar around the world.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although globalization and technology have made it easier than ever before to expand a company beyond the borders of the US, there remains the barrier of culture. A company cannot be successful if the corporate leadership is not well versed in how business is practiced in the foreign country it hopes to conduct business within. Even multi-million dollar companies have learned this lesson the hard way.

It was for this reason that I was so excited about the Stetson Executive MBA International Study Program. The International Field Experience took us to Taiwan, Taipei and Bangkok,Thailand. I extended my trip with some Cohort 11 members and spent a few days in Tokyo, Japan. Through our multiple company visits I was able to witness first-hand, how different business practices in Asia are from business practices in the United States. thai-lawI was able to ask questions of senior level executives of major major corporations regarding the practice of business and law in their respective industries. I received valuable key information which I plan to integrate into my legal practice immediately. Thanks to this program I am a better lawyer.

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Arden Tilghman – Who We Are is About Who We Were

While driving into Taipei, we had the opportunity to see several sections of
the city. We drove through the outskirts of the city with more
rural/manufacturing districts, by apartments and housing for those who commute
into Taipei but live outside the city limits, near the River parks where biking
and other outdoor recreation is centered, and finally into the heart of the city
where commerce and daily life buzz 24/7. Through this transition from one
district to the next, the most noticeable difference to my American eyes, was
the extensive farming and gardening everywhere, in every district. From plots of
land the high rise balconies overflowing with greenery, farming and gardening
was clearly a large part of daily life for most Taiwanese.

Agriculture in Taiwaan

Agriculture in Taiwaan

The significance of farming arose for the developing nation of Taiwan after World War Two.
Through the turmoil and lack of consistency in prior years, Taiwan was able to bounce back as a
stable nation, and global player, because of its strong agricultural capabilities. Now, in the
center of one of the most technologically innovative nations in the world,
everyone gardens and grows some of their own food. Fresh food is bought daily
from a local market, or collected from ones own garden. The values, daily
activities, health of diet, and eating habits are highly influenced by the roots
of this agriculturally based country.
How the Taiwanese live, eat, and interact was developed, in part, by their survival as a
nation and their reliance on agriculture ventures of the past. It makes me
wonder what other aspects of their daily life are driven so strongly by who they
were? What other insights can be gained by studying their history. The
realization of the importance of truly studying and understanding a cultures’
past and present in order to truly understand their culture, or do business
with, was evident when looking at the farms and gardens of this highly developed
and sophisticated society.

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Arden Tilghman-  The Journey: Traveling is Way Better with Friends 

We are an hour an eighteen minutes from
landing in Tokyo, where we will have one more leg of our journey- a three hour
flight before arriving in Taipei. Although I’m a little stiff, and ready to get
off the plane, this 12.5 hour trip wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated. After
a short nap, watching a tv show or two, and meal service, several members of
Cohort 11 gathered in the aisles and hallways of the plane. We passed a few
hours by following that cycle. Watch a movie, have a drink, eat a snack, get up
and socialize….repeat.
Before I knew it, we had  just two hours left, and breakfast was being served.
They told us we would get closer as a group during this trip, and they were right.
Leaving a familiar environment, where the daily worries don’t exist (or at least you
can’t do anything about them), sets the stage for a really good time. Even at the
beginning of our journey, I am understanding the benefit of many minds and many
faces for international travel and business. Leaving the familiar world, where
reliance on the team isn’t an option, but an effortless necessity, is an
interesting thought to ponder when considering engaging in international
business ventures. Tired and excited, the team is almost in Asia.

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Cinthia Douglas – Experiencing New Cultures

Our international trip was actually an EMBA course that included a pretty extensive amount of work, including preparation of cultural nuances prior to our travels.  It is one thing to study a subject, but it’s quite incredible to actually live it.  Here are a few of my most fun and memorable moments that really showed me the cultural nuances of SE Asia:

1. Our first night in Taipei, Taiwan, we had a big welcome dinner at a traditional Chinese restaurant in Taipei.  Chinese culture teaches people to “save face” where face is described as your reputation, your honor, and people aim to behave in ways that build up their reputation and honor.  During our lovely dinner, we had a nice server that accidentally overfilled a glass of beer, and the foam spilled over.  Several folks on our table clapped, well clapping was not enough for me – you see, being a native Brazilian, beer rules and messing up of any kind is reason to celebrate, so I shouted out a big “Woo Hoo!”  Our waitress bowed her head, apologized and right away left our table – off-course probably feeling very badly, having not “saved face” with our table.  When she returned, she apologized and bowed again, and our table quickly recovered by assuring her it was ok.

Having dumplings in Taiwan

Having dumplings in Taiwan

2. Pork, pork plus more pork!  As it turns out, Taiwan imports very little beef and chicken is also not a common protein so pork is everywhere.  We learned from the American Institute there is a strong push from the pork business in Taiwan with strong political influence affecting the importation of beef.  Almost every single one of our meals involved pork – chopped pork over rice, pork dumplings, pork soup – an endless supply of all types of cooked pork.  Having a lack of variety was an interesting cultural change.

3. Thailand showed me gentleness and kindness at its deepest level.  In all they do, from raising children to having a disagreement on the street, being gentle and kind is an integral part of the Thai culture and it is evident among all social economic levels.   As I compare with the US culture and how deeply we value competition – we play to win, second place is the first looser, and so on… sure, there are benefits to having a strong drive but I realized how meaningful it is to hold gentleness and kindness as core values.

4. Doing business in Thailand, even for big brands such as McDonalds, means using very little legal advice and services.  The power of building and fostering a relationship with your business partner is the most important.  Even if contracts are written up, they have little repercussions with the actual government.  Culturally, this is drastically different than doing business in the US and probably would make business investors very uncomfortable.

In all, there are many cultural nuances I experienced during our trip to trip to SE Asia , from funny faux-pas to lack of legal involvement, there is no comparison to the power of learning from a real experience.

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Cinthia Douglas: Taiwan – So Different Than What I Expected

Prior to our trip to Asia, I associated Taiwan with the “made in Taiwan” I often noticed in the products I purchased here in the US.  I imagined an extension of industrial China, where pollution was a problem for place full of factories.

Once I arrived in Taiwan, I was impressed at how organized the road system was and just how easily we commuted for an hour as we made our way to Taipei over an elevated highway.  Arriving in Taipei was pretty amazing.  Right away I noticed how modern and incredibly clean the city was.  As we checked into the Conrad Hotel, I started to feel at ease and very comfortable with our surroundings.  A few of the top things that stood out for me include the metro system (incredibly clean and efficient), the large number of scooters that moved about (including carrying children as passengers), the easy access to American brands and how kind everyone around me was.

Taipei at night

Taipei at night

During our days in Taipei, we visited the American Institute, Shangri-La Hotel, toured the Ford factory and visited the Asia Pacific Fuel Cell Technologies all with the core purpose of learning how to do business in Taiwan.  We discussed all the advantages Taiwan is experiencing as it’s separated from China with the ability to thrive on a democratic economy.

One of my favorite cultural visits was the Taipei 101, the 5th tallest building in the world.  Taipei 101 gave us a panoramic view of Taipei with a wonderful restaurant at its base offering the most delicious dumplings I have ever eaten – the Din Tai Fung.

Needless to say, Taiwan was much more than I ever expected.  By the time we were leaving, I could easily see myself living there temporarily.

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7-Eleven in Taiwan

7-Eleven in Taiwan

Kobina Amoo: 7-Eleven and Krispy Kreme in Taiwan

While on this international trip I found it so interesting that businesses that I thought were going out of business or only holding on with a few locations are thriving in Taiwan and Thailand. How can this be? Do Americans support businesses until we get enough or until we find something new? Or maybe the people in Taiwan and Thailand appreciate when a business comes from the states and that’s why they support them?  I’m not sure of the answer and maybe you have more insight on it than I do but to see 7eleven and Krispy Cream Donuts in business in a foreign land but in business with lines out the door.

After long flights and one layover, our first business visit was to The American Institute in Taiwan.  After a very informative meeting with Ms. Youqing Ma, Commercial Officer, she began by to telling us about a one stop shop store where you can do everything.  7eleven, I could not believe what I was hearing. “7evlevn the corner store from the states?” is what I said to myself.  Ms. Ma just raved about how you can get great coffee that’s better than Starbucks from 7eleven.  In addition to coffee you can pay your electric bill and get concert tickets all from the great 7eleven.  I could not believe what I was hearing, I can’t remember the last time I was in a 7eleven but I know it had to be sometime in the 90’s.

Krispy Cream Donuts, the donut company that took America by storm had some great years then in a blink of an eye; they were closing stores left and right. I remember when I first moved to Tampa, FL and saw a Krispy Cream open for business I could not believe it.  Now to see this donut shop that I thought failed; having lines out the door on the other side of the world is mind blowing to me.  When I say lines out the door I mean literally out the door.

Line up at a Krispy Kreme in Taipei, Taiwan

Line up at a Krispy Kreme in Taipei, Taiwan

I know many companies take their businesses internationally.  The businesses that we perceive to be doing well we expect those companies to have a presence in land other than the United States.  To me this is a great example of trying an idea or the one thing you have been sitting on for years, because you never know where it may take you.  If Americans can’t see your vision maybe another culture will.

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Ernesto Sosa:  Bumrungrad International Hospital

Since the beginning of the century the United States have been considered the Land of Opportunity; however this is was greatly impacted by the effects of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. A devastating event that negatively impacted many industries and economies throughout the globe gave Thailand a new window of opportunity for Medical Tourism and they have not missed a beat since.  The Bumrungrad International Hospital is an example of the infrastructure that was already in place when 9/11 happened. They just took advantage of marketing to Middle Eastern travelers who normally would have come to the US for medical tourism.

Cohort 11 - Bumrungrad International Hospital

Cohort 11 – Bumrungrad International Hospital

Many new regulations were put in place to protect American soil, some of which made it very difficult for foreigners from the Middle East to visit the US. Thailand recognized the challenges and developed a whole industry around medical tourism and today they are the leaders in the field.

Thailand has developed a health system that caters for both Thai and international patients. Based on a self-pay system that depends very little on insurance and government bureaucracy, many private hospitals are offering highly competitive personalized health care for an eighth of a fraction of the cost compared to the US.

The crash of the Thai baht helped drive medical tourism business to hospitals in Thailand like the Bumrungrad International Hospital as well. With the Thai baht being weaker compared to the US dollar, Euro and other strong currencies, made it more affordable for international patients.

Hospitals like the Bumrungrad International Hospital offer coordinated full concierge service for international patients to ensure that the experience is smooth and hassle free. They are modeled on feedback received from patients stating, “no one wants to be in a hospital.” The Bumrungrad International Hospital is designed as a health resort, providing patients and their family with an enjoyable experience.


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Culture of Kindness

Ernesto Sosa – Slum Child Care

Being born and raised in the Dominican Republic and having been lucky enough to earn my undergrad degree in the United States I had a sense of how cultures can influence our feelings and thoughts and can change who we are. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit Mexico, Venezuela, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Haiti as well as interacting with many other cultures by working with Guests and Cast Members from around the World that visit and work at our Disney parks.

This has been my first trip outside of the Continent of America and yes I was expecting a difference in culture however I was not really expecting the level of kindness and respect demonstrated by the Taiwanese, Thai, and Japanese people during this trip.

I was blown away by the hospitality and kindness of these Asian cultures. People learn, understand the value of respect for others, and they embrace these core values as part of their early education as children. One of the most impressing things that struck me during our visit to the Foundation for Slum Child Care was how these young children respected each other, the staff, and the respect they showed for their cultural believes. These children also welcomed us with open arms, love, and kindness even though we were complete strangers to them.

Cohort 11 interacting with the children at the Slum Child Care

Cohort 11 interacting with the children at the Slum Child Care

Reality quickly kicked in for me when I arrived back to the US. After being immersed into kindness and respect, I felt a sense of authority and condescending discrimination when an immigration officer made the assumption that I was not an American citizen and asked me to prove that I had an American passport in order to stay in the “correct line”. We feel empowered to judge and disrespect others without even realizing it.

We are all in this World together, whether we like it or not; and as Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama) said: “ If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another”.

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Jen Farb – Freedom

As I was celebrating our nation’s Independence Day this weekend, I began thinking about just how lucky we are to live in a free country where we have such a thing as freedom of speech.  Our recent trip to Asia truly made me realize how jaded we have become to this fact in our country and how thankful we should be to those who gave up their lives for our freedom.

Walking around Beijing, although it is an amazing and historical city, you can feel the hand of the government on your back.  In all of Mainland China, such things as Facebook and Google suddenly are illegal and you only can access by creating a virtual private network (VPN).  There are also still government imposed restrictions on the number of children that you can legally have as a Chinese citizen in order to maintain control of the population.  Everywhere we went in Beijing, there were cameras and police spread throughout in order to maintain order. Freedom_1

The first stark difference was felt as we stepped onto Hong Kong soil, and the western influences came flooding back.  The culture in Hong Kong is much more diverse than in Beijing and the British influences are still prevalent in everything from the taxi-cabs (organized by color to ensure traffic efficiency) to the language (every sign had both Cantonese and English).

The downside of a beautifully clean, organized, and efficient city is that it is very expensive to live there and there is quite a disparity in wealth.  There is quite a bit of change coming in the future for Hong Kong as it is scheduled to officially rejoin Mainland China in the next few decades.

Taiwan, like Hong Kong, also lives in the shadow of Mainland Chinese rule as it is in an awkward limbo between a free independent nation, and a territory of the PRC.  During our trip around Taipei, we were able to see how much the economy is growing and differentiating from Mainland China, and in the coming years it will be interesting to watch what happens.

In Thailand, even with a peaceful, Buddhist culture, you can go to jail for insulting the royal family in any way, and words can be easily misinterpreted.  A few times when we asked our tour guide questions, she would tell us “I will tell you on the bus” in order to ensure her words were not overheard by the wrong people.  The political situation is also extremely unstable and even though we saw no sign of the military coup, we all were aware of its impact.Freedom_2

As I was flying home from the other side of the world, I quickly read through the opinion section of the Orlando Sentinel and discovered an article where the author was outwardly disagreeing and truly bashing President Obama’s foreign policy in great detail.  At that moment, I realized how truly amazing it is that we are free to speak as we wish, specifically about our Head of State, through a nationally distributed and legal newspaper.

In America, we have the ultimate freedom to choose how we want to present ourselves to the world through our words and many of us choose to take this for granted every day.  Maybe one day in the future, there will be people in these Asian countries that are brave enough to speak up and take action for their freedoms as many did and continue to do today here at home.  I know that after this amazing opportunity to explore and learn from 4 very different cultures, I am walking around much more thankful for those sacrifices and to have the freedoms we do here in America.

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Thailand Hospitality

Jennifer Schmelter – Thailand Hospitality

The Grand Palace. Street food. Buddhism. Wat Arun. Opportunity. Tuk Tuks. All things you may think of when you think of Bangkok.  People who have never traveled to the city may not immediately think of poverty.  However, as a newly industrialized country, there is an interesting dichotomy to the scenery in Bangkok.  Growth and success towering over dilapidation; poverty and ruin masked in the shadow of their newer brother – economic growth.  Thailand has the second largest economy in all of Asia, but a per capita GDP of $5,779 in 2013.  While this places them with the 10th highest per capita GDP in Asia, it still leaves a lot of room for growth before the country is maturely industrialized.

Over the course of our trip, however, it was evident that while some Thais may lack the luxuries money can buy, there was no shortage of hospitality, kindness, and smiles in their demeanor.  There was a sincere caring and respect from each and every Thai individual I interacted with on our trip including our tour guide, the business professionals with whom we met, even the tuk tuk driver who firmly yet politely negotiated the fare for our drive back to the hotel one evening.hospitality2

During a longer than anticipated walk to one of the malls located “near” our hotel, the weather was scorching hot.  We took notice of some of the traffic cops directing rush hour traffic.  They were dressed in bright orange jumpsuits from neck to toe; long sleeves, long pants, and most with masks over their nose and mouth.  “I have no idea how they wear that stuff out here for hours at a time,” I commented.  The next block we saw a traffic cop energetically, if not joyfully, directing traffic in the road.  I couldn’t see his face, but his body language, movements, and cheerful whistle chirps made it clear he was happy to be where he was and was making the most of the moment.  It was like watching a choreographed dance of traffic directing.  That snapshot of joy without regard to the less than ideal conditions was what I felt throughout Bangkok.hospitality3

Maybe it’s the beautiful temples, maybe it’s the delicious street food, or the thrill of being able to drive your scooter through oncoming traffic without risk of a traffic ticket.  Maybe it’s Buddhism at its finest.  Whatever it is, I wish I could have bottled the source of the kindness and patience the Thai people have with all people they encounter and bring it back to the US to share.  Yes, 13.2% of Thais were below the poverty line in 2011.  Perhaps many Americans would visit Thailand and see all the things those in poverty are lacking.  And perhaps many Thais would visit America and see that all the things we do have don’t guarantee us the values in life that really matter: mutual respect, courtesy, and genuinely caring for others.

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