I love it! The Wall Street Journal had an article yesterday about the challenges of dressing appropriately for doing business in different countries, in their fashion column. My male colleagues often think this is minor, but the reality is it can be quite tricky for women who travel internationally for business, and requires some research and careful advance planning. Cultural mores affect not only formality, color choices, and styles, but also what is considered appropriate and modest, and what may be correct in one country (e.g., a knee-length skirt), is completely inappropriate in another (where women’s legs should be completely covered).
Even after I’d been working in India for a couple of months, I still didn’t feel quite professional unless I wore typical western business wear – a suit or at least tailored pants with a jacket. I avoided skirts, since everyone, except small children, cover their legs. One of my female colleagues pointed out that I must be hot, and I explained my dilemma. She gave me a big smile, pointed to the beautiful salwar kameez she was wearing, and said “In India, this is a suit.” She was right, and I started wearing my own salwar kameez shortly afterwards. (Thank you, Sapna!)
There is a lesson in this anecdote, that the best way to dress in any country is to take your cue from the locals. Of course, that lesson often applies far beyond dressing.