Thursday, December 22, 2011

Foreign Country "Cheat Sheets"

With the Goodson Law Library preparing for upcoming Christmas and New Year holiday closures (see Hours & Directions for info), it’s a good time to reflect on holidays around the world. As globalization has made transnational business the new normal, lawyers must be aware of cultural differences which can impact scheduling and travel plans; these details aren’t always readily apparent from travel guidebooks or simple web searching.

Most international travelers are already familiar with the Background Notes and travel information provided by the U.S. State Department, including security threats and travel warnings. But a lesser-known series from the federal government can also be invaluable to travelers and those who do business on a global scale.

The Commerce Department’s U.S. Commercial Service publishes and updates Country Commercial Guides, which are intended for use by U.S. companies doing business in a particular country. Chapter 8, “Business Travel,” always contains a section “Local Time, Business Hours and Holidays,” which provides useful information about the typical work week (including the usual lunch hour), important national holidays, and other invaluable insights. While Biglaw associates may be toiling away in their Manhattan offices on Friday the 23rd, they shouldn’t bother scheduling a conference call to Tokyo – it’s the Emperor’s Birthday. Qatar would also be out of the question – Friday, as “the Muslim holy day, is a day of rest for all sectors.” Country Commercial Guides are available free on the web through the Market Research Library, and can be searched by country or browsed by Report Type.

Incidentally, if international travel is in your future, remember that the Duke University Libraries maintain a subscription to Byki, a flashcard-based foreign-language instructional system for more than 70 languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu. Safe travels to our readers over the holiday season, and best wishes for 2012.