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Ambrose Prof Teaches Abroad

December 2011


class of students in ZurichHe's taught in many parts of the world, but Professor of Marketing Studies Craig Shoemaker considers his recent teaching experience in Zurich, Switzerland, as one of the best.

The course was international marketing and was delivered as part of the Swiss Business School Flex MBA Program. His students hailed from Italy, Czech Republic, Denmark, Brazil, Sweden, Russia and Germany.

A Q&A with Professor Shoemaker

What countries did you focus on in the course?
I chose Russia, China and Japan for study and analysis, focusing on economics, legal/regulatory issues, society and culture, competition, and trade and restrictions. The students had considerable pre-class work including a case analysis, 60-page country reports, and a textbook and articles to read and critique. Part of their work was to report on differences in business culture and etiquette between the three countries.

Can you share a story or some class scenario where the diversity of your class was showcased?
In international business, great focus is place of the "BRIC" countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, as being the future economic superpowers. My student from Russia gave a very different perspective. He reported that corruption is so rampant within Russia that it will never become an economic superpower. When we discussed business etiquette, the students—each from a different country—discussed what etiquette is particular to their country.

Do you know what some of these students were doing in their careers?

There was considerable diversity in careers among my students. Two had doctoral degrees and several others had master's degrees in other areas. Three worked for a major Swiss insurance company, one was treasurer of a Swiss company, one worked in higher education in Sweden, a couple were project managers and one was an engineer.

How did you come to teach the course?

The dean of the Swiss Business School and I are longtime friends and I've taught there several times. Last summer he asked if I would teach a class in their Flex MBA Program, which meant the class was delivered over the course of a weekend. I've taught MBA classes in 8- and 15-week formats, but never in three days. It took several months for me to develop the unique class.

Where else have you taught?

In addition to teaching in Zurich, I've taught for 10 years at Vilnius University in Lithuania, and at a small institution in Quenca, Ecuador. Teaching internationally allows me to bring that experience back into the classroom here at St. Ambrose. I love what I do.

Observations on Business Culture and Etiquette:
In Japan
* Harmony is considered more important than frankness and honesty.
* In Western culture, trust is built through business success, emotional rapport or intimate friendships. In Japan, it is built on predictability, conformity and reliability.
* A person is accountable to a group, not to an individual.
* Casual dress is never appropriate.
* Women cannot wear pants.
* One should never point.
* One should never pour his/her own drink.
* Western cultures face a problem straight on. In Japanese culture, one steps around the problem.

In Russia
* Foreigners are expected to be on time for meetings. Russians may be late.
* Patience is an important virtue among Russians, but punctuality is not.
* Russians view compromise as a sign of weakness.
* When shaking hands, never wear gloves. It's considered rude.
* Never give red flowers, as they are a symbol of love and romance.
* When handing out business cards, have English on one side and Russian on the other side.
* Be prepared to drink a lot of toasts. Refusing to do so is a serious breach of etiquette.
* Never show the soles of your shoes, as it's considered rude.

In China
* Personal relations are more important than culture.
* Signing a contract is one of the first step in negotiations.
* Seniority is considered more important than achievement or skill.
* Women cannot wear high heels or short-sleeved blouses.
* Avoid any personal contact.
* No business discussion is allowed at meals.
* It is considered offensive for women to wear revealing clothes.
* It is not appropriate for women to drink at meals.

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