In 2009 I sat down for a scheduled lunch meeting in Istanbul with a Russian businessman I had never met. This lunch was at the Four Seasons hotel right alongside the Bosphorus exactly in the spot you see in the above photo. From where we were sitting you could look across the river to see Asia in the distance.
This Russian business man was a tall guy with a strong build who wore a sky blue dress shirt and tan suit. His hair was silver and he wore square black sunglasses. He was right out of a James Bond movie. When I arrived at the outdoor lunch table where he was waiting for me he was eating a club sandwich with a fork and knife.
While we sat and talked, my role in this was to discuss manufacturing in Turkey and getting supplies (textiles in this case) produced in Turkey for buyers in the USA and Europe. It was a discussion about factories and production.
At the end of our conversation the well dressed Russian put his fork and knife down, wiped his mouth with his white cloth napkin and said “if you want to produce product in Turkey, you have to invest in Turkey”.
I knew what he meant. We didn’t end up doing business.
The world is a rough and tough place full of rough and tough people. The majority of Americans have no idea how the world works.
We live in a bubble going coast to coast with the same language, the same currency, and the same fast food and pharmacy franchises. If I dropped you off in a suburb of nearly any city in the country you might not even be able to tell what city you were in.
Only 42% of Americans even have a passport (up from a ridiculous 27% in 2007). That means 58% of Americans have NEVER been out of the country — have never been overseas.
How can you begin to understand global politics, world history, or the on-the-ground realities of the world (both the nice and the shocking realities) if you have never been anywhere outside the USA?
When you move around the world and deal with business people, leaders, and even just everyday people in other countries you learn that their street smart radar is highly tuned compared to us. Many have cultures of survival, and this permeates everything. Americans naively think most…