I vividly remember my first full day in Seoul. A colleague and I were being treated to a delicious Korean barbecue dinner by our Korean distributor’s 15-member team after a long day of product training.
As the meat was cooking at the table, my counterpart and I found ourselves in a slightly awkward position. Even though we had worked with this distributor for the last five years, our communication had primarily been through email. As we talked, we grappled with the language barrier and quickly exhausted our small talk topics.
After mentioning how lovely the restaurant was and how we were looking forward to the meal, I pulled up Google Translate on my phone and typed in some simple, non-business questions such as: What kind of movies do you like? How about music? What kind of books do you read?
Pretty soon, the conversation was flowing. We began pulling up images, video and text on our devices while sharing a mutual appreciation of Korean film directors like Park Chan-wook and U.S. directors like Martin Scorsese.
After we returned to the United States, we began to experience an interesting shift. We began seeing more emails, more questions about our products and more sales from our distributor. We had reached a new level of comfort with our Korean partner, leading to win-win scenarios for us, our distributor and their customers.
There’s an old Korean proverb – 시작이 반이다
Loosely translated, it means, “Starting is half the task.”
That proverb certainly applies when building a strong trade relationship between a company in the United States and a company in Korea. My advice? Take some time to explore Korean culture and you’ll find yourself well on the way to better connecting with business and government leaders in Korea.
About Analtech: Analtech (iChromatography) is the sole manufacturer of high-quality Thin Layer Chromatography plates (TLC) in the United States. Director of Marketing Ken Grant first visited Korea in 2013, and counts it among his favorite destinations.