I’ve travelled around the world on business throughout my career. At my old company Deltec, we had over 30 different nationalities and even more ethnicities. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from establishing relationships with people from other cultures, it’s this; we have far more in common than we have differences. People love their families and their home; they want their children to do well (while sharing amused bewilderment about teenagers); they want safe, vibrant communities and honest, effective government (everyone complains about the bureaucracy); and they value fair, reliable business partnerships. Any differences can usually be managed with good manners and tolerance.
On business trips, we often had dinner with new customers and business partners. If it was an all-male social evening (in those days it usually was), I’d tell an old joke, “What are the magic two words for a happy marriage? ‘Yes, dear.’” Everywhere, in China, the USA, France, Switzerland, Brazil or Indonesia, it would elicit wry laughs, knowing nods, and someone would tell us the local version. People would relax, and we would have a great evening building the interpersonal relationships as well as the business ones.
Most people are open to connecting, if you can find a way. Sharing everyday commonalities is a good place to start.