On Saturday Washington, DC was a host to an annual highly popular event: Passport DC – Open Houses at Washington, DC Embassies. Last weekend it was open houses from countries all over the world, and this Saturday it was just the countries of the European Union.
Last time I had a chance to attend this cultural celebration was three or four years ago – in my pre-MBA life. After that I could not go because of my regular routine of spending whole weekends on homework assignments. But now that it is all over, I can do again fun stuff. Come to think of it, I suspect I will be posting a lot about my post-MBA fun, because there has been a huge penned up demand for just having life/fun in the last three years that will be released now.
I had some commitments in the morning, so I started my travel around Europe (or along Massachusetts Ave.- depends on perspective you choose) quite late, around 2 PM. That meant I had only two hours before all participating Embassies closed their doors. Still, between Dupont Circle and the British Embassy I was able to catch glimpses of a lot of exciting stuff going on.
Most of the Embassies had huge lines of willing guests. I specifically wanted to get to the British Embassy, because I had read that they were preparing a lot of activities and expositions to showcase the country in the light of upcoming Olympics and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Therefore I did not go inside any of the Embassies along the way, except one. With the rest of the Embassies I was just watching (and at one point – participating) the folk dance performances.
First, I visited the Luxemburg’s Embassy. Small area was open for visitors, with some artwork and fun facts sprinkled around the visitors’ pathway. One of the highlights of the Embassy was a magnificent bed of roses in front of the building, everyone around me were taking multiple pictures of those beautiful flowers. I took just one – to give you an idea.
Next, I stopped at the Embassy of Ireland and watched a couple of dances there. I was amazed at what an elaborate legwork is involved in those dances, some variation of tap dance, I would say.
Just around the corner was another dance performance in front of the Romanian Embassy. There, again, not only I watched a couple of dances, but also participated in one simple two-step dance when the audience was invited at the end of the formal performance. What a fun it was!
Next stop was at the Embassy of Latvia where I enjoyed watching a couple more folk dances.
After that I was going straight to the British Embassy without stopping. Once I got there the line was long but was moving steadily. I got in line in anticipation of some great time.
At 3.20 PM when I was mere 50 yards away from the entrance checkpoint a uniformed guy, looked like a Royal Marine, announced to us that the Embassy is closing admission of the guests, because the event is closing at 4 PM and they would need time to process the guests that were already in. He also explicitly added that “there are no exceptions for anyone”. Here is the picture of the guy who closed my entry to the UK
It was a disappointment, and I headed back to Metro. On the way back I spotted a line to the Italian Embassy, which I joined. I finally got in at about 3.50 PM. I had a look around the visitors area, checked out a few vendors, and some art exhibited there, took a picture of Italian Fairy (never had seen such long eyelashes in my life, fake ones of course). I also bought some Italian desserts, just to experience the taste of Italy. I spent there a total of 15-20 minutes and it was a nice closure to my Day in EU.
So, you might be wondering by now, what was the lesson in international business. It is simple: the way the time is treated in different countries in Europe, as was illustrated by the contrasting policies of the British vs. Italian Embassies.
The south Europe in general, such countries as Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, etc., has a much more laid-back way of life. This laid-back attitude translates in how they do business, communicate with each other and the world, which I had firsthand experience during my Study Abroad program in France; and hate austerity measures after screwing up their economies, for that sake.
The northern European nations, on the other hand, are much more pedantic, punctual, and formal, with that “no exceptions” attitude expressed by the Marine. That’s why I was still welcome at Italy at 3.50 and turned away from UK at 3.20. I have no grudges, but it is helpful to keep these peculiarities in mind when doing business or even just traveling in different countries across Europe. And, as turns out, you can experience these differences even without ever stepping outside the Washington beltway.