I know, I know that many Europeans and especially Americans consider Russian people quite morose. We do believe that you may smile when you want to and not when it is comfortable to others. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of time in Europe and got used to the “professional smiling”. But that one shocked me for real.
That was a Russian guy who moved to Europe about 10 years ago. He had a nice job, a nice face and nice clothes. The problem was..he was smiling. All the time. I saw his brand white teeth through the whole conversation. He was smiling while I was asking a question. He was smiling while answering my question and after he would answer my question.
Did he do an operation? Does he have any problems with the muscles of his mouth? Is something wrong with my makeup?
-Ivan, did you study in the US?
-Yeah, I did!
-Now I get it..
Dear all, the gestures and the facial expressions are sometimes even more important than knowing the language of the person. Try to pay attention to how people look like when they are interacting and to do it the same way – this will help your international career a lot.
There are two reasons why people get disappointed with their own dreams not coming true: those dreams are too large and ambitious or too far away to reach. Some people say, one should reduce his expectations to become happier. I strongly disagree with that opinion. In order to achieve a big dream, one should see it not as a light at the end of the road but as a puzzle spread across the road from many smaller dreams. Each time you do a step, you make a small dream come true, which motivates you to go further and inspires to seek new big dreams. You want to start a new life abroad? There are the dreams about passing the English test, getting your papers done on time, getting an invitation, getting a visa…so many small things to celebrate and be happy about each day!
Let the most important dreams in your life be a road, not a destination!
It is hard to focus on work during one of the most beautiful seasons of the year – the time before Christmas holidays. Ok, probably, not the most beautiful here in Northern Germany, as we have rain all the time, but colder countries have luck for sure 😉
Some people are bored and can’t wait for holidays to come; some, like me, are sad because their families are too far away; some are scared to show up in a new family. Under the line would be: your team is unmotivated and not concentrated. Here is a very good Christmas exercise, which push your team’s motivation up to the top, will not take more than 30 minutes and will create a beautiful example of the teamwork.
Get some really nice Christmas cookies. Prepare 30 shits of origami paper and promise your team members that everybody who will do some of the Christmas star pieces will get cookies accordingly. Voila, you get several grownups happily folding pieces of paper – and at the end you get a beautiful Christmas star!
Since the moment I saw a lady in the German Embassy in Russia getting her working visa so easily, I also wanted to get one. At least, to feel the same respect she was treated with. Of course, she has been invited by one of the largest international companies, which are looking for smart people for specific projects all over the world. Just one year later, I became a Blue Card holder with the Germany as my first destination. But what does this Blue Card actually mean?
- Working where you wish. There are countries with a high unemployment rate and with the low ones. Countries with a high employment rates like Germany are focused on attracting the best experts in technical, medical and innovative fields, which leads to a more open visa regime. In other countries like Italy, the unemployment rates are higher. If you are a foreigner from a non-EU country, the Blue Card if your pass to work in Europe and to change employers and countries in a very flexible way, as long as you meet the BC conditions.
- Taking your family with you. The Blue Card holders are often highly skilled professionals who are be found by large companies and offered a contract in the EU. Even though it is usually a limited contract, one receives an opportunity to move to the new place with the family and to get (often, depending on the country) free integrational and language courses.
- Helping yourself out. Here comes a small hint: the visa legislation related to Blue Cards differs a bit in European countries, but you should read yours even before you get to touch your very own Blue Card. Why? Because, for instance, in Germany, if your contract expired or was cancelled after 1 full year, you are eligible to an unemployment insurance AND a visa for the job search (3 months with the Blue Card + 3 months usually offered extra) for the whole period of your insurance (which is 6 months if you worked at least 1 year).
- Getting the permanent residence permit faster. Yes, this is also possible for Blue Card holders with some knowledge of the local language. With time, you will be able to apply for a permanent residence permit (incl. your closest family – wife and children) and stay in the country as long as you wish. Just keep in mind that there is usually am difference between the citizenship and permanent residence permit in a form that you should stay primarily within the country – whenever you want to move within Europe again, have a look at the current legislation 😉
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.
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!
The Indian work culture is very different from ours. First of all, Indians are not as stressed out as Europeans are, especially in the small cities. Drivers, shops’ owners, tabacco chewers are sitting and chilling while waiting for the customers. Or talking and drinking tea. Or just sleeping directly on their work place or in the car. You usually will not find Indians standing straight and waiting for the customers with a big smile on their face from 09:00 till 18:00 like you are used to in Europe. They will be very relaxed while waiting for you. By the way, the shops usually work till 17 or 18, rarely 19, so one does not expect a bunch of tourists coming from their one-day excursion to shop in the evening. In India, you will be offered a cold drink or a chai (tea with milk, sugar and spices) while you are sitting and shopping. This is a process to be enjoyed by both, the customer and the seller. While passing working people by, you feel a much more pleasant energy than in a French or German office, where employees live under the 24/7 stress. Probably, the appreciation of what you have right now is determining a more relaxed way of working here.
If in countries like Korea and China you may learn how to survive in the hardest competition, here you may learn how to enjoy your day while working hard. At least, it is worth trying.