Lost in Translation

What Happens When You Arrive at the Office Unannounced

Photographer: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

When David Koretz visited his company's office in Russia, he didn't get the welcome he was expecting.  Close

When David Koretz visited his company's office in Russia, he didn't get the welcome he... Read More

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Photographer: Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

When David Koretz visited his company's office in Russia, he didn't get the welcome he was expecting. 

David Koretz had just flown 30 hours from his home in New York to Russia when he found himself staring down the barrel of a gun -- and not in a figurative way.

It was nighttime, and the founder of BlueTie, an e-mail hosting company, was visiting his company's Saint Petersburg office for the first time in 2004. No one was there except a security guard who didn't speak English. Not knowing Koretz, he refused to let him in.

"I just kept saying, 'BlueTie president, BlueTie president,'" said Koretz, who got annoyed and decided to bypass security.

That's when the guard pulled his gun, and Koretz found himself in a standoff with an employee at his own company.

Nearly an hour later, after Koretz was allowed to call the office manager, he was let into the building.

"I would have stood there all night," said Koretz, who acknowledges his stubbornness made the problem worse, but that his refusal to leave was a matter of principle -- and jetlag.

Koretz didn't hear a peep out of the guard until the end of his week-long trip, when he gave the boss a warm goodbye in broken English.

Now an executive at Juniper Networks, Koretz said that by holding his ground, he earned the guard's respect. (Or he just didn't want to get fired.)

Of course, there are less confrontational ways to earn respect, like learning to speak some phrases in the native language. Some useful ones (with help from Google Translate):

Я здесь работаю. (I work here.)

Не стрелять. (Don't shoot.)

Я подписываю вашей зарплаты. (I sign your paycheck.)

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