Apps and maps enhance international business travel

September 14, 2012 Liz Mobile Apps

A story making the rounds a few years ago (though never substantiated) recounted Pepsi’s efforts to penetrate the Chinese market. Unfortunately, the slogan that had opened up market share in the U.S.— “Come alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation!”— fell as flat as a bottle that had been left open overnight. When translated into Chinese, the locals were promised (or warned?), “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.”

Those who travel for business already know how useful mobile technology can be for both productivity and communication. With international business travel, your smartphone or tablet can also serve as an invaluable virtual reference book. Travelers can avoid cultural and linguistic blunders with few quick taps of the screen. Here are a few of my favorites apps:

  • International Business Etiquette: This robust resource addresses complexities and questions about language, culture, and business and social etiquette. Its user-friendly at-a-glance format produces easily located factoids on major cities, ethnic distribution, role of religion, society and culture, role of family, and etiquette and customs. (Available for iPhone. Free)
  • Culture GPS: If you find the work of Geert Hofstede as fascinating as I do, you can brush up on your cultural dimensions on the fly using this app. Each country is scored on Hofstede’s five cultural dimensions. With one tap, you get a bar graph for ready reference. The professional edition includes specific recommendations for managers, employees, and virtual team members. It also facilitates cross-cultural comparisons as well as a survey for creating your own cultural profile. (Available for iPad and iPhone. The professional edition is $24.99, the lite version is free.)
  • TripLingo: This personalized language guide uses your personal objectives, interests, and concerns (even allergies and medical conditions!) to generate a list of phrases you can learn prior to travel. Its Slangslider tool allows you to adjust your phrasing for casual, formal, or professional converation. (Available for iPhone. $9.99 for each of 14 languages).
  • JPA iTraveler: This resource is a good complement to International Business Etiquette, though with a databank on 46 countries, it is not comprehensive. Its sleek design allows you to locate key facts, quick history, business environment, etiquette, and—my personal favorite—Pay the Right Price, which serves as a reality check for out-of-pocket expenses such as cab fare, food and drink, and tipping practices. (Available for iPhone. Free)
  • Mango Library: This app allows you to access your library account. More than 40 languages are available for remote access and self-paced study. Its methodology is based on intuitive language construction and simulates the cultural immersion language-learning approach. (Available for iPhone. Free)

Bear in mind that some of your preinstalled apps have utility for international travel as well. Apple’s map application is very well optimized for global reference. And Newsstand allows you to access foreign newspapers and magazines so you can better immerse yourself in local news and events during your trip.

These tools should enhance your international travel experience and reduce the likelihood of your committing a cultural faux pas. But if you do, you can take solace that it probably won’t receive the media play Pepsi did.


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