Before the Memories Fade – Tips for Project Managers Travelling in SE Asia

by Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D.

Hanoi, VietnamDid you know that …

… when crossing the street, you just keep on walking, even though there are hundreds of moving motorbikes?

… speakers are often treated like rock stars in parts of Asia?

… a fruit called Durian smells like “sheet”?

… that most city people go back to the country to visit their family on the weekends, returning with gifts of food?

Don’t worry, I didn’t either.

That is the great thing about traveling to places as different as Singapore and Vietnam. My world widened in ways I never could have imagined and I am still digesting the experience. You simply can’t beat the steep learning curve of traveling.

There were some hurdles. Traveling so far away isn’t easy ─ the oppressive heat, the jet lag and the immersion in strange tonalities that make saying thank you (“Com on”) nearly impossible. Yet, I wouldn’t have traded this golden opportunity for anything.

Husband Bill and I planned a vacation around my speeches on The Introverted Leader. First stop was the HR Summit, the largest HR conference in SE Asia where a receptive crowd showed up. On to Hanoi, Vietnam where the American Center at the U.S. Embassy and Thai Books (The Vietnamese publisher of my book) played co-hosts.

We arrived early on a Saturday morning and leaders from many fields and industries ended up filling the 300 + seats. There is a growing, university educated generation in this fast growing country. These hard working, emerging leaders continually strive to develop themselves. For instance, my interpreter has two technology businesses and a company that translates talks for foreign diplomats and executives.

Before the memories fade, I want to share some impressions and lessons I learned along the way:

  • A Singaporean working mom shares how stressed out her young children are from working so hard at school.
  • Our Saigon guide instructs Bill (in graphic detail) how to take a live duck and prepare it for a special dinner feast. Still waiting for that duck, Bill!
  • A restaurant manager in the city of Hue reveals how his wife’s career advancement as a teacher was blocked when she married him. Why? Because of a difference in their religions.
  • Photos and videos are a universal language. Glad I updated mine.
  • It is a myth that Asians don’t laugh. Most humor does cross continents. Being authentic works.
  • Using local references helps to build credibility with an audience.
  • Slowing down your speech is appreciated by those who don’t speak English as their native language.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Kahnweiler, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at


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