Should I take this job in China? That was a question from a US client. Her concern was not as much about the position as to whether she could fit in and be successful working in the culture.
The most successful international businesses are those that take care to fit in well with local customs. This also goes for the individuals who work for them! Here are some key areas to pay attention to in adapting to a new work environment whether it’s in another country, another city or even another company.
1. Timing and punctuality
Some cultures strive for punctuality, while others have a much more relaxed approach to time. In some Latin American or Asian countries, you may need to cultivate the art of patience when it comes to start times for meetings. However, cultures are definitely changing with the times. So don’t go on assumptions – find out.
2. Pace of working
You may find yourself getting frustrated if you’re working in a culture that doesn’t share your haste to get the job done. Deals that only take hours to strike in one culture could drag on for weeks in another. Business may be restricted to the boardroom in some countries, while in others lunches, dinners or even sporting events will be the negotiating arena.
3. Eating and drinking
You may be presented with a meal that you find hard to stomach. For example, if you’re a vegetarian in cultures where meat is the most important dish, you’ll often have to decide between pleasing your hosts and sticking to your own principles. Check out the local culture in respect to alcohol too. You may be expected to join in several bottles of wine over lunch, or drinking might be frowned upon.
4. Office culture
The corporate structure might be much more hierarchical than you are used to, even within the same organization. And you may also find that there may be different gender expectations. So again ask, don’t assume.
Career Success Tip:
But above all, make sure you stay focused on WHY you’re doing this overseas posting. Whatever the purpose, the relationships you build during the course of your assignment will be invaluable to you when you get back home. So pay particular attention to professional networking during your time working abroad. What have you learned living or working in another country or part of the world? What lessons did you learn?
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- Copyright © 2011 Marcia Zidle career and leadership coach.