Career opportunity abroad? How to master cultural differences
Those of you who have left your home country for a career opportunity, for love, or for a new challenge know that life as an "expat" is not just a choice. It's a lifestyle. According to a recent study, one-third of all Americans would consider emigrating, and in Germany, more than 140 people emigrated in 2013.000 people to new shores. In the USA in particular, the number of people wanting to emigrate has been increasing dramatically for some years now, and that is a good thing. Most headhunters and recruiters are sure that experience abroad makes a candidate even more attractive.
But to take advantage of career opportunities abroad, you need to do more than just book a flight. The language barrier, different lifestyles and cultural differences are often underestimated when emigrating. Still, international experience is almost a must for senior managers and executives – especially in Europe. And most emigrants will tell you that the experience is worth all the effort.
If you're considering an international job offer, you'll first need to show courage – the courage to say yes. But before you sign the contract, you should consider – and familiarize yourself with – the following cultural differences.
Different working hours
Most Americans get on the train in the morning and then work from 9 to 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then it's back home. But in a culture that promotes constant accessibility, those work days can also stretch out much longer – so it's entirely possible that you're sitting at the kitchen table on a Tuesday night, still reading work emails on your phone. In Europe, working hours vary from country to country.
Germans, for example, usually work from 9 to 6 – but after that they often go to the beer garden for a bike drink. So the saying "work hard and play hard" is apt. In Spain, on the other hand, the word "siesta" is writ large. Prepare for stores across the city to close for a few hours. During the midday heat, you too can take a rest and recharge your batteries.
So, if you want to change not only the country, but also the continent, you should also consider the lifestyle there. Does this fit with your idea of a work-life balance? Need two hours to yourself at lunchtime to rest and reflect? Or prefer to go home in the evening at 6 sharp to spend time with friends and family?
Behavior at work
Cultural norms also vary from country to country. Like many other companies, Experteer has an international workforce – from France, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nepal, Colombia, Bulgaria and many other parts of the world. This creates a very open work environment where traditions and customs are shared with each other.
However, if your new company is more likely to be made up of locals – say you're moving to France and your new employees are all French – you should familiarize yourself in advance with certain norms – especially those that are present in your day-to-day professional life. Don't be startled when your new colleague from Paris kisses you on the cheek in greeting. This is certainly not sexual harassment in the workplace, but simply a gesture of greeting.
If, on the other hand, you are attending a conference in Asia, learn beforehand how to present your business card to a business partner properly.Don't just pull it out of your pocket, possibly dirty or dog-eared, but place the (pristine) card in your open palms with the writing facing upwards. Just handing your business card to someone is equated with a lack of respect in Asia.
So do your homework and find out what is expected of you in your new home country – especially in your new hometown as well.
Salary and benefits
Lose your temper at the thought of spending 7o percent of your income on rent? Would you rather have a higher salary or more vacation days? Or both? These are all questions you should ask yourself before making your next big career move abroad. After all, some cities are known for their high cost of living. So before you book your flight to New York City or Paris, take a closer look at the rental prices and put them in relation to your new salary.
And remember, it's about more than a paycheck at the end of the month. In France, for example, some employees are entitled to 10 weeks of paid vacation per year. In Germany, on the other hand, you only get about 30 days on average – that's six weeks. Still, compared to the American standard of two weeks, that's luxury. So consider your lifestyle and passions before you take the plunge into a new country.
International experience is something incredibly valuable, both for personal and professional development. So sit down at the laptop and figure out which country is right for you. After that, you can search for the right international senior position on Experteer.