Whenever we do trade shows or go to out-of-town meetings, it seems that business travelers are single-handedly driving the world economy. Airports are filled with B2B poster ads by Fortune 100 companies, the price for everything is crazy high, and customer service reps appear to have gotten their training at Disneyworld.
A recent trade show we attended allowed us to experience Boston that way; as a coddled business traveler in deal-making mode. Here’s what we learned that can help you get the most out of Boston when you’re there for work:
It took us a few trips to over-the-counter restaurants such as Yankee Lobster to understand why the person taking our order never asked for our name. In our hometown of Atlanta, they normally hand you a decorative object to bring to your table so the runner knows where to deliver the food; or they’ll at least ask for a name to associate with the order.
We know this sounds like a persnickety detail, but we held up the line a few times hangrily asking, “Don’t you need our name? How will you find us?” In Boston, it turns out they prefer to holler the first name of the person associated with the credit card. That’s how you know your food is ready.
Good thing we weren’t borrowing my boss’s credit card. That would have been super-confusing.
It’s probably a faux pax to compare New Yorkers to Bostonians, but we’ll do it anyway. Bostonians are very direct. It’s definitely a blue-collar sensibility. And locals do not have time for all your preamble. They need to know exactly what you want. If your request makes sense, they’ll get right on it. If not, please think it through and get back to them.
Like many meeting facilities in the northeast, the Boston Convention Center is union-friendly (unions are a strange concept for southerners like us). That means when you’re an exhibitor you must let the pros do their job. Hands off the electrical gear, don’t build stuff yourself and be very clear with what you want from the workers. Time is not their friend.
New England produces 25% of the seafood in the USA, with Massachusetts delivering much of the lobster and scallops. Therefore, Bostonians define “fresh seafood” in a way southerners won’t understand. Tony Maws, chef/owner of Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts says, “More often than not, the path of a fish from boat to store isn’t just point A to point B, as we might romantically envision. Instead, we should consider points C and D as well, and that probably includes myriad trucks, warehouses and refrigerators and all the hands that get them there.” In Boston, points C and D don’t exist.
When an intern on our marketing team bravely ordered the Treasure of the Atlantic at Rabias, we thought the lobsters were gonna pinch him.
Castle Island is a 22-acre (8.9 ha) recreation site and the location of Fort Independence. During a day off we hiked 2 miles from the Westin Boston Waterfront to Castle Island to enjoy shoreline views, see planes take off from Logan International Airport, rollerblade and bask in the very cool history behind one the Revolutionary War’s most pivotal sites.
During periods of rioting and unrest in Boston, British officials used Castle Island (then-named Castle William) as a refuge. The first real argument between America and Great Britain was actually about stamps – stamps on pieces of paper that King George insisted the colonists buy and use for basic things like documents, magazines and playing cards. When the colonists threatened to destroy all the stamps, guess where the British stored them? You guessed it; Castle Island.
So, imagine what a victorious moment it must have been for George Washington and his continental army when they finally took control of this spectacular island in 1776.
From the moment we spoke to our hotel receptionist, we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore. When you hear a Bostonian say, “Park the car,” it sounds like “pahk the cah.” This totally charming quality of Boston originates from the English immigrants who aspired to be like British aristocracy. If you imagine the Queen of England pronouncing the word “large” you don’t hear much emphasis on the “r”. Two-hundred years later, that pretty much still applies.
The Boston dialect – which will remind you of Good Will Hunting and John F. Kennedy – hasn’t expanded far beyond New England for two reasons. First, immigrants who arrived after the American Revolution came from places other than England. Second, those newcomers could care less about sounding like royalty.
There is a palpable energy you feel when visiting place that is hundreds of years old. Somehow, the man-hours that went into building the buildings, creating the sculptures and paving the streets appreciated like a fine wine. The value of those peoples’ efforts has compounded over time and continues to linger in the air.
City officials in Boston have leveraged this principle to make Beantown the optimal stage upon which corporate travelers can build and maintain relationships with one another. It’s a great place to do business. So be sure to remember our fresh tips when you plan your next business meeting in “The Olde Town”.