It's a small world: A year of noteworthy achievements for the International Affairs Committee

Jerry Fay
National Program Director for Public Works
Phoenix, Arizona
Chair, International Affairs Committee

We were just beginning to start our International Task Force Meeting at the APWA Congress in Philadelphia when we heard a commotion out in the hallway. We stepped out to find that an airplane was believed to have crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. After a few minutes of watching the TV monitor in the Philadelphia Convention Center we went back to our meeting, only to be advised a short time later that another airplane had crashed into the other tower. Now we were shocked into the reality that this was not an accident but an act of terrorism.

I begin this article with this short introduction only to point out that we have had to readjust our perspective on international affairs based on the events of September 11, 2002. Our relationship with other countries around the world has taken on new meaning and we need to better understand their cultures and beliefs. Therefore, I would first like to encourage you to attend the "Exploring Cultural Taboos Around the Globe: The Do's and Don'ts of Building International Relationships" session at the Kansas City Congress. The Diversity Committee and the International Affairs Committee are jointly sponsoring this session and it will be an excellent opportunity to understand how we can better interact with our global neighbors.

The activities and accomplishments of the IAC have been very extensive and it is difficult to know where to start in recapping the year. Annually, one of the most important activities of the IAC is developing programs such as the one above for Congress. Other valuable sessions include: "The Australian Perspective on Stormwater Management Plans"; "Challenges and Opportunities for Mexico and California along the International Border"; "Towards Sustainable Communities: An International Perspective"; "Round Houses, Ships on Dry Land, and Chorus Line Cultivating: Public Works Around the World"; and "Learning from the International Community: Advances in Intelligent Transportation Systems and Winter Operations Management." These programs were developed in concert with APWA's international partners and will provide an excellent opportunity to learn from the experiences of the international community.

This year was also unique in that not only have we developed this exceptional slate of programs for the Kansas City Congress, we also worked with Doug Wesselschmidt from the Kansas City Metro Chapter to develop a special program for our international guests. The 2002 Congress in Kansas City will provide a local host partner program, a daily hospitality area, visits to facilities/technical tours, transportation, and job shadowing opportunities for our international delegates. There will also be an International Guest Reception.

Along with the IAC, all three of our international partners—the Slovakia Public Works Association (SPWA), the Asociacion de Municipios de Mexico, A.C. (AMMAC), and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australia (IPWEA)—were active this year. Dwayne Kalynchuk, APWA Region Nine Director, represented APWA at the SPWA Spring General Assembly in Sahy, Slovakia in March. Eighty delegates were in attendance and the program included presentations, an equipment show, and demonstrations on new technology. We are exploring the possibility of expanding our current partnership with SPWA to include Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. With Slovakia, these three central European countries make up the Vishegrad Four (V4) and have been working together since 1994.

In May, a delegation of APWA members attended AMMAC's Congress in Pachuca, Mexico. APWA members made several presentations and we held a meeting with representatives of AMMAC to discuss our partnership agreement and AMMAC's participation in the Kansas City and San Diego Congresses. We are exploring the opportunity of expanding our international program because of the proximity of San Diego to Mexico and having simultaneous translations for some of the sessions.

We continue to have a strong working relationship with IPWEA and they will again be sending a delegation to the Congress in Kansas City. As usual the IPWEA provided us with some excellent articles for the Reporter and sessions for the Kansas City Congress. We have been discussing IPWEA's very successful exchange program, which was highlighted in a Reporter article, and are looking for opportunities to replicate the program for APWA members.

This year we signed an agreement with the International City/County Managers Association (ICMA) to work collaboratively on international activities. The ICMA has an extensive background in international activities. The agreement will include identification of opportunities for our members to serve internationally and collaboration between our associations on international initiatives. This will be an excellent opportunity for APWA to expand and strengthen our international programs.

Another area we are looking into is the translation of certain APWA documents and manuals into Spanish. We have discussed this proposed activity with representatives from AMMAC and we are in the process of determining the appropriate materials for translation and how the translation process will take place.

In closing, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the members of the IAC for the outstanding job they have done this past year. The current members are Jimmy Foster, Bernardo Garcia, Julio Fuentes, Bob Kass and Chris Champion. As you can see from the preceding accomplishments, the committee has been very busy. I would also like to give a special thanks to Kaye Sullivan for her assistance this year, and to IAC member Jimmy Foster for providing information on international cultural issues over the past year in the Reporter. Jimmy has traveled extensively and has had the opportunity to become familiar with many different cultures.

To reach Jerry Fay, call (602) 508-6650 or send e-mail to


Exchanging business cards in Japan
What is the proper thing to do when exchanging business cards in Japan? Do you tuck it away for safekeeping as North Americans often do? No. Exchanging business cards when meeting a potential client is a very important ritual in Japan. You should take the card, examine it carefully, and repeat the name of the person, his title, and his company. To fail to do this is an insult because the business card represents who the person is and his position in the company he represents. In Japanese culture, the emphasis is on company achievement, not individual achievement.

Tips from Developing Your Cross-Cultural Savvy, by Laraine Kaminsky (who will be speaking at the 2002 APWA Congress):

  1. Translate your business card into the language of your biggest market and ensure the translation is accurate.
  2. Bring many small, nicely wrapped gifts.
  3. Check your assumptions. Your business partners in India or Pakistan may have been educated in the U.K. or the U.S.A.
  4. Learn about the cultural do's and taboos of your target markets.
  5. Use humor carefully across cultures. What is funny in one culture may be rude in another.
  6. Be very explicit when you are dealing across cultures.
  7. Develop patience when dealing with group-oriented cultures.
  8. Do business over lunch, not dinner. This puts the emphasis on business rather than socializing afterwards.
Cultural Proverbs:

"All things good to know are difficult to learn." — Greek Proverb

"Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead." — Scottish Proverb

"Give to a pig when it grunts and a child when it cries, and you will have a fine pig and a bad child." — Danish Proverb