Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Little Consideration Goes a Long Way in International Relations

This is a story of my ex-colleague from my previous job. He was an assistant manager in an export office in Tokyo. His name is Mr. Fumio Ito. An assistant manager's role included hosting visitors and customers from foreign countries. He needed to choose and book a hotel for visitors coming from all over the world. Providing transportation was his responsibility, too. He arranged to pick up the visitors at the airport, to take them to their hotel, and to pick them up again for a business meeting at their hotel. In other words, he did all the groundwork so that his visitors' business meeting would go well.

Above all, the most important task was arranging business dinner for foreign visitors. Most of the cases, he arranged to take his visitors out to a Japanese restaurant. Sometimes, he used a sushi bar. He took his visitors to a tempura restaurant on another occasion. He wanted visitors to enjoy Japanese food. Because he had lived in Hong Kong and the US for 1-2 years, his choice of restaurants and dishes were excellent. He could satisfy visitors with his selection of Japanese foods.

One day in his office, he checked the schedule of a visitor who was soon to arrive for a relatively long time. When his subordinate suggested to Fumio a sushi restaurant, his favorite, Fumio did not make an immediate decision. He was still checking his visitor's schedule. His visitor that time was from Spain. The visitor was originally from the Basque region in Spain. After Fumio checked the visitor's schedule, he called his office friend who had experience of being stationed in Madrid. He finished his call and asked his colleague to find the best restaurant for Basque cuisine in Tokyo. His colleague is puzzled. He asked Mr. Ito why he did not choose Japanese food this time. Fumio grinned and told his staff that he would soon understand.

It was not easy for his colleague to find a restaurant that served Basque-style food in Tokyo. When his colleague found a restaurant, Mr. Ito took his colleague to assess the restaurant. He invited his friend who had experience in Spain. He made sure that the restaurant was fine. Mr. Ito's visitor arrived. The business meeting in the daytime went okay. Fumio took him to the Basque restaurant. The visitor was a little surprised that Japanese company took him to a Spanish restaurant. The visitor loved the food and enjoyed the restaurant. He confessed that he left his country about two months ago and missed the types of dishes that he was used to.

Mr. Ito was checking the detail of his visitor's schedule even before he landed in Japan. He knew that he had been away from his hometown for a long time. I thought that we should learn the spirit of hospitality from Mr. Ito's small but significant consideration.

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