29 October 2012 By Billy Hawkins
The process of actually transporting a “ job”, overseas is never straightforward; there are a number of variable factors involved which affect us.
For example, ferries to some destinations (Scandinavia and Channel Islands) only run on certain days and even less in winter, so getting to and from a job needs to be stage managed. We have to plan travel in Europe around laws restricting driving with trailers and seven and a half tonne lorries on certain days (Sundays and various holidays) and in Germany you are not allowed to use power tools on a Sunday (including lawn mowers). Apparently this is why many Germans run around on Monday morning cutting the grass before they go to work! We have to try and plan trips around these factors or we can be stranded unable to get there or stranded unable to drive home.
Then there are many import procedures for countries such as Switzerland and Lichtenstein which can have you held up at border crossings for hours if your paperwork is not all in order. Whilst I can get by in most European countries with my limited knowledge of the languages, destinations like Japan and Russia can pose more of a problem. Local climate can also be an issue; I have built greenhouses in Athens in summer (40+ degrees) and New York state in Winter (-20 Degrees). Ideally we would avoid these extremes but sometimes customer requirements make it impossible. (Images show working in Moscow, sightseeing in Japan and snow in Lichtenstein).
Whilst I love the different peoples and locations that we are lucky to experience, our trip to Japan was a real culture shock. We were booked into a very traditional “old school,” spa hotel and once we had negotiated the various slipper etiquettes to get to our room (shoes off at the front door, a pair of slippers to walk to your room, another pair to wear in your room and yet another to wear in the toilet!) we found that there was no bathroom and that the washing facilities were communal. The Japanese client offered to show us how the facilities operated and arranged to meet us in the spa baths an hour later, instructing us to be dressed in kimonos. Unfortunately the standard hotel issue kimonos were made to fit the average Japanese person who tends to be considerably shorter than Shaun and considerably slimmer than myself! After much running around, the hotel staff found a couple of kimonos that just about managed to cover our modesty.
Upon meeting the customer , we were informed that we had to be completely naked to partake in the baths. So within six hours of meeting the client we were all sat naked in a ridiculously hot spa bath that threatened to render us at least medium rare; unlike every meal we were served (including breakfast) that was completely raw! This was a new level of customer relations for us and not one that we are keen to repeat!
For details of overseas projects click here.