Shake Hands or Bow – How it all Began

AmerichinaNear the end of my first year of law school, around midnight on a Friday night, I found myself stumbling through the law library, bleary-eyed and completely brain dead.  I had spent hours and hours studying for end of semester finals, and I was looking for any kind of diversion from reading cases and anything else pertaining to law.  As I shuffled through the rows of books, my eyes fell upon a book titled “An American In China” by Sydney Shapiro. I pulled it down and began reading.

Shapiro was a young American lawyer who, after learning to speak Mandarin in the Army, decided to leave his law practice on Wall Street in 1947 and go to Shanghai, China.  The book relates his experiences from the moment he stepped off the boat through the next 30 years.

I grew up in a relatively small town in the Midwestern part of the United States, where the total minority population was less than 3%.  As a result, I had almost no exposure to foreign cultures.  Shapiro’s accounts of his exploration of Chinese culture, as told through the eyes of an American, was my first exposure to exploring a foreign culture — and I was fascinated.

The next semester, I completely rearranged my schedule so that I could take every course in international law that was offered.  I became President of the International Law Society, began hosting foreign lawyers visiting the U.S., secured internships at multinational corporations, and generally seized every opportunity to interact with people, cultures, and legal systems that were not familiar to me.  Thus, began my sojourn into the world of international business.

Eventually, I came to realize that what I had discovered during that period was a passion for exploring foreign cultures.  Fortunately, for the past 20+ years I have had the opportunity to pursue that passion through the cross-border business transactions that I have been involved in and my international travels.

Every project taught me something new about my counterparts, their cultures, their worldviews, or more often, about myself.  The goal of this blog is to share some of what I (and others) have learned about the adventure that is international business.  I hope you enjoy it.