In foreign commerce partnerships, finding a common language is only half the battle. Business owners in the United States must clear the additional hurdle of mastering the measurement system used by most of the rest of the world. That’s right: if you’re going to work with, sell to, or buy from companies in other countries, you’re going to have to go the extra mile (so to speak) and get used to speaking metric.
Why? Because if you’re importing food that has to be stored at a certain temperature, you need to know how that number converts from Celsius to Fahrenheit. If you’re exhibiting at a trade show in another country, you need to understand how to choose among booth sizes presented in square meters. If your rental car abroad gets 15 kilometers to the liter, it’s helpful to understand how far you can go before you need to stop for petrol.
The good news in this digital age is that metric conversion is like the math that you never quite mastered in high school. No problem: we have calculators for that stuff now. I’m a big fan of Science Made Simple’s online tools, which convert to or from metric measurements of area, distance, length/height, speed, temperature, volume, weight, power, pressure, and fuel economy.
For currency conversion, I like the calculator at OANDA, which offers live and historical exchange rates in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.
Time zones can trip you up, too, especially when the U.S. changes its clocks between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time, which we do on a different schedule than most other countries. World Time Server not only keeps track of the current time, but also offers online converters and meeting planners to help people in distance cities coordinate their schedules.
When calling overseas, check Country Calling Codes, which gives you the telephone codes for the country and city you’re dialing. And if your emails to business partners abroad are generating bounce-back error messages, check the Visibone Country Chart. The URL that you thought was a .com may actually be a .za (South Africa), .vn (Vietnam), or .nl (Netherlands).
Finally, if you’re traveling abroad on business, be sure to pack the right adaptor for your electronic devices. ElectricalOutlet.org gives you names, descriptions, and pictures of outlet by country so you can stay plugged into your network wherever you go.