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December 11, 2010

Working Abroad: Expect Hiccups.

Working and lawyering abroad isn't about being cool, wearing an ascot or pretending to be George Hamilton or a Parisian filmmaker on your weekends in Montpellier or Bruges. Even if you've worked a few times in Europe in some of the most American business-friendly cities, there are always surprises, hurdles and frustrations. The good news? The glitches and delays are always different.

Language, by the way, is not likely to be a problem if you are a Yank. No need to bone up on your French or German. In the last 20 years, non-English-speaking Europeans increasingly have favored English for doing business--including with each other--and they are not struggling much with it. Do surprise them by learning as much about their country, language and culture as you can. Immerse yourself in it. But forget about learning their language as well as they have learned yours. *

Apart from the substantive challenges of doing the Work Itself (i.e., a deal or a business-to-business arbitration), there are issues of travel logistics, brand new "collisions of culture" that are highlighted on both sides of the table in every new project or proceeding, and the daily realities of erratic sleep and devil jet lag. The experience can try you.

It can get to you, too--and spoil the fun and excitement. You need to be organized and diligent. And flexible. Three years ago our friend Janet Moore was working a lot in Ireland and Holland--both relatively user-friendly jurisdictions and cultures for American lawyers and their clients. Janet's a veteran of working abroad. Her take? As she wrote to us all, she needed to remind herself to "be patient"--and to "expect hiccups".

*Let's be frank. Many Europeans have come to the conclusion that even educated and well-traveled Americans are hopelessly insular--both geographically and linguistically--and they are doing their best to regard it as humorous and charming, sort of. In short, they have given up on us. We're getting a pass.

Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzb├╝hel Desk) at December 11, 2010 02:59 AM


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