Mikki Williams Speaking in Australia

Another AHA! Never listen to judgmental descriptions of countries, cultures and foreigners. They're like the old game of telephone; the story changes from each person to each person. It is not true that all Germans are serious, all Frenchmen don't like Americans, the Dutch are cheap, the Irish drink and party all the time, the English are stuffy and the Aussies are male chauvinistic.

The twenty-plus hour plane ride was well worth the trip. Do leave some sleep adjustment time on either side. On my first trip I had images dancing through my head of kangaroos, koalas, and men that looked like Mel Gibson. My best friend Kathy accompanied me and together we allowed for some after-speech time to tour the country. AHA!: You don't tour Australia unless you have a lot of time. I asked one Aussie how far it was to the Great Barrier Reef from Sydney. All of their answers referred to flying time, not driving time.

My first trip Down Under I keynoted a large convention and traveled through the Sydney area speaking for branches of a large company, a fitness chain, a major bank and a computer company. The next trip was another AHA: Don't try to live your life in one week. I arrived on Monday at 7 a.m. and immediately went to a client company to begin a 8 a.m., six hour presentation on teamwork. Next day, a six hour workshop with the CEO and all senior management (proud to admit this giant company mission statement evolved from that presentation). Wednesday, a six hour workshop on customer service and then the next four days various topics with different divisions of the company. Customer service will not win any Malcom Baldridge awards in Australia or any other countries I've visited thus far. No reflection on the wonderful people everywhere else in the world, but customer service as we know it (except in exceptional situations) has not been given more than lip service (hence my program title: "Customer Service or Lip Service?"). No reflection on the terrific hospitality of the Aussies.

You cross the international time barrier and gain a day on your return. As my pilot said the first time he explained the phenomenon: "We leave Sydney at 8 a.m. and arrive JFK 10 a.m., so if you screwed up today, you have a chance to do it over again." The best humor is in your everyday situations.

My second trip brought me to the beautiful Gold Coast resort area and then time to play in Sydney and see the magnificent Sydney Opera House. I stayed at the five-star Regent Hotel and then at a beautiful guest suite hotel on Bondi Beach. Off to Warata Park where I fed the kangaroos and koalas and then shopped at Darling Harbor (always find time to shop). There are three things to do in this life, "you're born, you shop, you die."

During one of my programs on customer service, I was talking about Stew Leonard's, The World's Largest Dairy Store. I noticed all the Aussies start whispering and laughing. When I asked what was so funny, one gentleman replied, "We think it's so funny how all Americans think everything they have is the world's largest. You're the only people who have a World Series and you're the only ones who play in it." They have a dry but sharp sense of humor.

Also, when I travel I am concerned about safety, not only from the female perspective but more from the political and religious ramifications. It's a pleasure to go to Australia, to me very much like my favorite Canada, which is a neutral country with peaceful people and a harmonious culture. Remember the AHA's: Know your verbal and cultural differences. If someone asks you for a rubber, they simply want to borrow your pencil eraser. G'day mate!

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