Trading and doing business are linked to culture; sometimes, it can get slightly weird when you are faced with bizarre business approaches abroad. 

Yap, the Island where people pay in stone money

Micronesia is an archipelago nation, a far and remote island region in the Pacific Ocean.

The term “in the middle of nowhere” could have been invented for this part of the world.

The Yap Islands are part of Micronesia and have a bizarre currency: stone. 

Stone money, known as “Rai,” is a large stone disk, measuring as big as four meters, with a hole in the center that was used for holding smaller stones.

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It still is used as a trading currency today.

Interestingly, most of the stones have not been made on Yap but the Island of Palau just next to it.

The people of Yap would paddle across the ocean to collect the stones and bring them back.

Rai or stone money. Image: Bank of Canada Flickr

They would trade with the people of Palau using beads and coconuts.

The risky journey increased the value of the stones.

The older the stone, the more it’s worth.

Rais are no longer mined, so their value is now a fixed cost.

But if you were to travel through the island, you’d see the heavier stones by the side of the trail.

Time has moved on, and the US dollar is now the main currency in Micronesia.

However, stone money is still used for significant transactions such as purchasing land, marriage, or compensation in case of wrongdoing. 

Haggling in Morocco

A market in Marrakesh, Morocco. Image: Matt Kieffer, Flickr

Haggling is done worldwide but nowhere does it like in Morocco.

While people in the west cringe at the idea of trying to reduce the cost of the item they’re hoping to purchase, in Morroco it’s part of the culture.

It’s seen as a social interaction that should be enjoyed.

Good hagglers can also win the respect of people in the North African country.

For the uninitiated, the process is:

  • The dealer quotes a price.
  • You decide what you want to pay
  • Be confident and look interested
  • Smile and act calmly
  • Remember the dealer has been doing this for years
  • And don’t think you’re ripping them off – or that they’re looking to rip you off – but see it as you taking part in the traditional purchase process.

And it’s a great way to learn more about the local culture.

In Finland, saunas are used for team bonding

They love a sauna in Finland

A sauna is one of the multiple gifts that Finland has to offer.

It’s not just a way to relax but also a way of life.

People in the European country will usually go to the sauna at least once every week.

You might choose to go on your own, or with friends and family, but did you know that you can even have a business meeting in a sauna? 

Businesses will book a “sauna party” every year as a team-building occasion, but smaller meetings can also happen.

Even the army and parliament have their own.

One slightly concerning aspect to the non-Finnish is that in Finland everyone goes naked.

This can be particularly disconcerting, especially with people you don’t know.

It has a much more profound meaning: everyone is equal once everybody takes off their clothes, and conversation can be open and genuine.

This is where you build trust between everyone you work for/with.

In South Korea, karaoke seals the deal

Karaoke is used to conduct business in South Korea

Japan may be the nation that created karaoke, but South Korea made it a point to use it just as much.

Korea is an extraordinarily hard-working society, and if you find yourself invited to a ‘Noraebang night’ you can expect to expect to show off your singing skills in front of a room full of people.

There is help in hand, in the form of booze.

But if you want that deal, you better join in.

As well as having fun, the fact your business partners have seen a different side to you, largely involving awful singing and being very drunk, you “have no more secrets to hide, “which is a great way of gaining mutual trust.

Koreans even use this event as a chance to communicate important messages or settle disputes. 

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