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International Delights

I recently had brunch at Ze Mean Bean Café on Fleet Street in Baltimore City. If you’ve never been, the restaurant features cuisine with an Eastern European flavor, a warm and cozy place with lots of dark polished woods and live music. My fiancée had the goulash and I had something called “The Polish Cowboy,” which turned out to be scrambled eggs, polish sausage and a couple pancakes.
Right now, this column reads like an overly long TWEET, “what I had for lunch,” but trust me, hang in there, there is a point.
As one of my fellow dinners commented on his borscht—that’s basically beet soup for the uninitiated, and something I align with Russian cuisine—I realized how this restaurant and its menu offer a lesson in modern day public relations.
International public relations, to be precise, the topic of my lecture last week to my “Introduction to Public Relations” students at Loyola University.
Despite what U.S. news agencies seem to impart, the world isn’t just North America. Chances are, if you want to acquire a truly comprehensive world view of daily happenings, you're better off tuning in the BBC than CBS.
And different countries and cultures have different traditions, social mores, etc., that you best be aware of if you want to be successful in promoting your client outside America’s borders.
For example, a few years back GOOGLE was having trouble establishing a foothold in Japan versus its competitor, YAHOO. By way of example, GOOGLE Maps was not well received in the Land of the Rising Sun. Why not? Well, the U.S. is not nearly as a public-transportation dependent as other countries, like Japan. Japanese are more apt to want an app that will provide directions, not to the specific destination, but to railroad and bus terminals.
Another fun fact. In China, if you’re holding a banquet for a client, you might want to think twice about numbering the tables. For one, that may be perceived as a kind of “ranking,” not to mention the fact that in Chinese culture, some numbers are considered unlucky and best be avoided. It’s sort of the U.S. equivalent of not having a 13th floor in a hotel.

While some have said the story is apocryphal, some may recall the tale of how the Chevy Nova flopped flat on its grill in Latin American countries...evidently "Nova" translated in Spanish as "No go."

The internet, more than any other invention, has made our audience a global one, and if you want to be successful, you best get busy learning whether what plays in Peoria will also play in Paris or Pakistan or some other foreign location that begins with “P.”

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