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International work in an international world. Part II: surviving as a foreigner in an international company.

If you are new in a company, many things can go wrong. Adapting yourself in an international company in another country may be easier than fighting with the language barrier in a small local SME, but still a challenge. If you found yourself away from home in an international giant, here are some basic tips:

  • Manage to eat: Eat with everybody what they all eat, where they all eat, when they all eat. Eating is one of the most ancient ways of getting closer to people. Your tasks are not your first priority – you REALLY should eat the way your colleagues do.
  • Manage to participate: Meetings are a necessity for your job, but clubs are the necessity to keep your job. If your colleagues do anything in their spare time, be it yoga, evening cocktails or even sailing, do yourself a favour and participate. The social game is the next most important ancient way of becoming a part of a group.
  • Manage to talk: Personally, I feel like an idiot when people are discussing football. I have neither love nor interest for football. I will be by no means able to support a conversation on this topic – but surely can ask 1-2 questions to be polite and show my respect to the interests of my colleagues.
  • Manage to avoid: Topics related to politics, critics of behaviours and cultures, personal life details, religion, talking about other colleagues. Many people know that those topics are taboo, but I still hear them every week.
  • Manage to observe: How people are interacting with each other. How are they reacting, responding, working, greeting others and asking about favours. It might be very different from what you are used to.
  • Manage to explain: Feel free to explain, why you do things differently. Feel free to tell that you don’t eat pork or should wear a head scarf all the time. Every normal international company should show acceptance to the basics.

International work in an international world. Part I: Looking for the right international company to work for

With this week, I will share some observations on the international work in German companies. They might be different from your experience, and I will be glad if you share yours in comments.

First of all, let’s have a look at how some transnational giants handle the diversity.

  • When I submitted an application for McKinsey & Company, they announced something like: By the way, we have support groups for women, LGBTQ and disabled! Wait a minute..did you really put me as a woman in the same line?.. I withdrew my application right away.
  • When I started working for a BIG4 company in Hamburg, we had about 8% foreigners and only one guy on the floor who did not speak German. Yeah, as international as it might be!
  • When I had an interview with the company I am working for now, I asked, whether they already have foreigners in their teams. They told: “Of course we have foreigners, we are a very open-minded company!” Sure, they have! I am the third one!
  • Every company I have an interview with asks me, whether I can work well in an international context. I am a Russian who moved from China to Germany after Spain, which one can clearly sees in my CV…but a question from a protocol is a questions from the protocol!
  • But enough jokes. If you are looking for a really nice international company..ask, which language is the official communication language in the company. Is it English? Congrats, you are one step closer to an open-minded employer!

Work & study abroad: defining your real goals. Internship? Work? Volunteering?

You got a new great idea: why don’t you go abroad to get some international experience and improve your English? US sounds great, but a friend of yours had an exchange semester in Thailand in 2015, and enjoying some sun while working sounds like a good idea to you. This idea of “doing something abroad” grows in your mind very fast, and one week later you catch yourself looking at immigration laws of different countries – why should you spend only 6 months abroad if you can LIVE abroad?

Take a dep breath and to think very carefully about your goal (see also my article on Motivation). What do you really want? This might give you some ideas:

  • You just want to explore new countries and to look how other people live
  • You want to exchange experience with colleagues from abroad / to improve your qualification
  • You are deeply unsatisfied with your life in your home country / you want to build a new life abroad

As you may imagine, each of these ways will require from you a different level of motivation, investment of your finance and time. It seems obvious that you need to make your mind before starting the preparations, but too many women just jump into it by hearing: “But if you like it there, you get a boyfriend, get married and stay in the country!” Hey, this is something worth considering – but let’s imagine you are a smart girl depending on yourself. So what do you really want?

In this article, I will focus on the first two points, as there are going to be many posts on the smart immigration topic later.

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