One of the great privileges I've enjoyed in life has been teaching as an adjunct college professor in Zaporozhye, Ukraine. When communism collapsed, a few US groups went into the Ukraine to set up colleges to help with biblical training for new ministers and children's church teachers. I was invited to join Greater Europe Mission in the quest, and I gladly took the challenge.
I learned a lot in those early years, and those lessons have helped me with my business to this day. Every so often, most real estate offices will have someone from a foreign country come in to buy or sell a house. How you relate to them may make the difference between a deal or no deal. Here are a few pointers I learned on the streets and in the classrooms of Zaporozhye.
- Don't speak in slang. Not only don't speak in slang, but don't speak in analogies, metaphors or in double-speak. Use simple, straight language. It's not that your foreign clients are stupid or ignorant, but they may not have the same slang or uses of language as you do. Keep it simple.
- Don't speak in epistles. Use short simple sentences. Don't speak in such short sentences that it's insulting to your client, but make it short enough that you get the point across without a lot of fluff.
- If your client doesn't understand something you said, don't get louder. He's not deaf. He's just unfamiliar with your language or maybe not accustomed to the way you use your language.
- Learn some of your client's language. It honors your client and will make your relationship more constructive. When I first started traveling to the Ukraine, the country was in the early years of freedom and capitalism. That meant a certain level of struggle for those who had grown accustomed to government assistance. So, money was tight. You bought most goods, services and food in the open air markets. One day, I stopped by a market and bought a souvenir. The babushka who sold it to me didn't offer a bag for me to carry it in. I had already learned that a used plastic shopping bag was like gold at that time. It was good to bring some from the states if you were going to be there any length of time. When she handed the product to me I said,"спасибо (thank you)." She looked up in surprise that I thanked her in Russian. She smiled and reached around behind her and grabbed a used plastic bag and stuck my item in it. She said, "Пожалуйста (you're welcome)," and handed it back to me. The fact that I took the time to learn a little of her language so impressed her that she sacrificed a bag that was valuable to her.
- Be patient, and take your time. Your clients want to buy or sell a house. That should not include huffing and puffing on your end because the American custom for time and action is different from a huge portion of the planet. More than once I was scheduled to be somewhere, let's say 5:00 PM, but a lot of my Ukrainian colleagues looked at time tables more like guidelines rather than specific times. They were actually pretty good about being on time. Some foreign clients may demonstrate their commitment to time-lines by missing deadlines by many hours, even days. Be patient.
- Show interest in your client's country, customs and beliefs. They may be different from yours, but you may be amazed at how fascinating they are. Do a little research.
- Don't spend all of your time talking about how great your country is, or how advanced it is, or how important it is to the Geo-political scene. That's relative to you, not necessarily to them.
- Have fun! Working with a citizen from a foreign country can be an amazing learning experience, even for you.
Open your eyes and your heart to new friends from foreign lands and you will be the one who is enriched. Some of my favorite people in the world live in Ukraine, but I would never have known that if I didn't open my heart to an opportunity. I love them like family, and every time we're together, you would think we were related.