The Pitfalls Of International Training
by Jean Barbazette, President, The Training Clinic
As you finish off that second cup of morning coffee and stare at the pile of routine paperwork on your desk, your mind daydreams of distant lands, exotic foods and the allure of adventure. It's been too long since your last vacation and your tired of the humdrum of day-to-day training -- you thirst for a new challenge. And this morning you vow to really do something about it!
Sound familiar? Well, three years ago that was me behind the desk. And, I did do something about it? After an aggressive marketing campaign I made contact with local companies to sponsor public and in-company workshops throughout Asia. After six extended training tours and over 30 workshops in such exotic destinations as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, The Philippines and China, I can tell you there are bumps and potholes in that road to adventure. To forewarn you intrepid travelers, here's what to look out for:
Ready, Set, Go!
Preparing for a three-to-four week training tour in a foreign region is a gargantuan task. Getting your training itinerary "locked in" is the first and sometimes most difficult task. Foreign sponsors can be fickle and indecisive, sometimes changing the dates, content and locations with little or no notice. But, with luck, they won't completely cancel at the last minute and will eventually succumb to your repeated fax and phone pleadings. Once the itinerary is set you must get the appropriate visas to enter, "work" (and pay taxes) in each country. To get a visa you frequently must get a letter from your sponsoring organization and meet a host of other requirements. Of course, every country's rules are different. And, if you think our bureaucrats have an attitude, just try dealing with the consulates of four to five other governments. But, the stakes are important since one miscue can cause you hours, if not days, of delay and questioning at immigration. Or, the ultimate "gotcha", being refused admittance because your papers aren't in order.
I can't explain how you pack your clothing, course materials and other necessities for three-to-four weeks of travel and six-to-twelve training courses, because when I try I get nauseous and my head hurts. And if that isn't enough, remember that you will be virtually out of direct touch with your office or home during your trip. You did remember to pay your mortgage and utilities before you left, didn't you? Oops!
O How I Love Those 24 Hour Flights
International airline travel ranks just behind childbirth and root canals on the "comfort" scale. As I trek to the airport with almost all of my business and personal worldly possessions packed into two bags the size of Nebraska, I face a daunting two-stop, 24 hour door-to-door trip.
I try to travel to Asia on a U.S. airline not because of any gingoistic allegiance but because the planes are usually half full and I can stretch out to sleep. It seems Asians prefer the service of Singapore or Malaysian Airlines and they keep their flights full.
After arriving you face the task of getting your body back in working order -- nothing that a shower, two aspirin and 15 hours of sleep won't cure. But there's a problem: you can't go to sleep because you're too exhausted and it's now mid-day according to your body clock. But don't give up hope. Just when you think you are going to be awake the rest of your life you pass in to a blissful 10 hour coma. When you awake, fresh and relaxed and ready to take on the day, you realize it is 3:00 a.m. I have yet to figure out what to do between 3:00 and 7:30 am in a strange country when sleep is out of the question. When you figure it out, please drop me a note.
All This And You Want To Get Paid Too?
Negotiating fees and contracts internationally is a work of art. When you quote your fees to do international work consider the preparation time, travel time and travel adjustment days. When you factor in these elements plus the cost of travel, it usually doesn't pay to take trips of less than two to three weeks.
Responsibility for local income taxes, which can run up to 40% of your fees, must also be negotiated. It's best to specify that your fees are net of any taxes and that taxes are the sponsor's responsibility. Then, you must be certain your sponsor pays the taxes and that you get your passport properly stamped to that affect. Otherwise, more delays at immigration and, possibly, you'll have to come up with the taxes before you are permitted to depart.
Get payment in a bank draft or wire transfer to your U.S. account. Nothing is more useless than a bounced check on an international bank.
About The Riots And Kidnappings
As I write this I am about to depart for Manila to do a week of training (as the final leg of a 3 week tour). I've just gotten the bad news that the U.S. government has issued a warning that terrorists are targeting Americans as kidnap candidates to avenge some real or imagined injustice. The good news is that the violence associated with the upcoming election in Manila has subsided.
The beat goes on!