By PAT HARTMAN
Ulara Nakagawa is a native of British Columbia, now living in Japan and writing for The Japan Times, where we found this interesting article about Ian De Stains, who recently published a handbook for business travelers. Nakagawa writes wonderful profiles, and one of her own nuggets of travel writing wisdom is, “Japanese cable TV is like being in kindergarten on drugs.” In this piece, the mode is more sedate. Here she quotes her subject, De Stains, on the priorities of life:
It doesn’t matter how much you achieve in your professional life. It’s what are you doing in your community. Are you making a difference? Do you fit in? Are you rewarded by how you’re living?
De Stains has been executive director of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan for 22 years, running this enterprise from an office building in Kagurazaka (pictured), a district of Tokyo renowned for the excellence of its traditional cuisine. He was born in Yorkshire, England, a hard place to be “foreign” in, but unlike many other out-of-place kids, once he got into a good school, things turned around.
Next, he achieved the rare distinction of acceptance to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (or RADA), where Anthony Hopkins, Glenda Jackson, Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt, and hundreds of other world-class stage actors learned their trade. From there, De Stains went on to the British Broadcasting Company, which sent him to Tokyo to make radio and TV shows for an international audience, learning about the country and culture and informing his viewers at the same time. Then it was independent consultancy, and then a career with the British Chamber of Commerce.
But the main thing has been the volunteer charity work, for which he was awarded Britian’s top honor as an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, usually shortened to OBE. Brought up with a family tradition of community service, he finds his greatest satisfaction in helping others. In a way, his book, Japan: The Business Traveller’s Handbook, is an extension of this altruistic impulse. Part of a series from Interlink Books, it advises the business traveller (they spell it with two L’s in Britain) on the many details that make the difference between mediocrity and success.
Here’s some more good stuff for business travelers (and travellers): At Lonely Planet TV, Asha Gill offers a number of helpful hints, like don’t forget to use your online social networks to find out which of your counterparts from other companies might be in, for instance, Tokyo at the same time you are.
This one’s for everyone: advice on avoiding the “Ugly American syndrome,” by Examiner expert Jane Lasky, who has also written on tipping, etiquette, and many other important matters. (Lasky once went on a five-day trip to Hong Kong and ended up staying three years. This is what some might call extreme travel.) Lasky is a bit pessimistic about one form of communication: “Humor,” she says, “just doesn’t travel well. Most likely, the joke will be either misunderstood or not understood at all.” Well, six of one, half a dozen of the other. Humor seems to work like a charm for Kevin, just about everywhere, going by the evidence in The Third Tower Up From the Road. From his stories of international interaction, we often get the distinct impression that goofy is good.
In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rick Steves offers a page of solid advice starting with, “When I’m in Europe, I become the best German or Spaniard or Italian I can be.” He also suggests such radical notions as, rather than just visiting cathedrals to gawk at the statuary, go to church. Yes, to blend in with the natives and get a real sense of absorption in the local culture, actually attend a service. What will they think of next?
Which leads us to ask: What non-touristy, indigenous experience have you found most enlightening in your own travels?