I’m in Lisbon this week for advisory board meetings of a Portuguese business school, ISCTE, which I have the privilege to serve. This is my second visit to this beautiful and vibrant city. Last October when I arrived for my first set of board meetings, I knew nothing about Portugal, not a word of Portuguese, nobody who lived in the city, etc. While everyone was more than friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t help but feel like an outsider. For example, though business meetings were conducted in English, most casual conversations took place in Portuguese. Additionally, I felt a bit out of sorts at restaurants as I could not read the menus and had to rely on the kindness of my dinner host to suggest dishes. Times have changed.
At the meetings, of course, I met several wonderful people who I now think of as colleagues with whom I’m building friendships and am now part of the conversations. Additionally, over the past eight months or so, I have been taking an online Portuguese language course to learn some basic expressions – as I like to put it, I wanted to be able to return to Portugal and order my own meals! That’s been working quite well this time ‘round. Though my sentence structure is poor, though my broken Portuguese does not (and may never!) allow for in-depth conversation, what I’ve discovered is that because I’ve put in the effort, people around me are rushing to my aid. They seek to include me, to help me through language challenges, to make me feel comfortable.
And isn’t that the way it always goes? When you indicate an interest, when you give it your best, when you roll up your sleeves to do the work – literally or figuratively – those around you take notice. They want to help. They want you to be successful.
This is true whether the “foreign” language is Portuguese or the unique vernacular of an industry or anything else which is part of a culture that you have not previously been familiar – including networking itself. Once you put in the effort, those in the know will meet you where you are and bring you along. It’s definitely worth the effort.
Do you have a similar story to share? Have you walked into the room feeling like a stranger in a strange land and left feeling like family? Please take a moment to share your experience with the CLC Community at CoffeeLunchCoffee.com.