Stephen R. Covey once said “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”, and we couldn’t agree more. Personalities and life paths play an important role in each person’s habits in the workplace, but cultural backgrounds do too. “Our values and personalities develop largely from the values and belief systems of the cultures we grow up in. However, not all cultures value the same things or in the same priority. Improve your knowledge of your co-workers’ cultures and you will improve your work experience as well” wrote Julia Ann Ferguson Andriessen, Business and Personal Coach.
Sound like something that’s hard to achieve? Let us tell you something: it isn’t. Summer is the perfect time to start working on improving your relationships with your international colleagues. And here you are some helpful insights: we asked our beloved colleagues (coming from more than 20 different countries!) to give us some tips and reveal the secret to working with international peers.
Join us for the first episode of our (ironic) world tour of countries’ working habits and be ready to get rid of some quite famous clichés!
Our trip starts from the very north of the Boreal Hemisphere: our Swede-girl Lotta Hellström, Jr Business Development Manager for the Nordics, has shared some cool tips everyone needs when planning to move to Sweden.
“As you know, in certain seasons of the year you don’t see the difference if it’s midnight or 9 o’clock in the morning, so why not wake up in complete darkness at 6 a.m. in order to be at the office around 7?” she told us while sipping her long coffee. Are you ready for the (really) early bird challenge, future expat?!
Heading further south, “don’t feel weird if Spaniards close emails with “one kiss” or “hugs”, even if it’s the first time they are writing to you!”: our Android Developer, Maria, from the sunny Nerja explains to us that no one should be worried about that ‘Un abrazo fuerte’ closing the email of your new Spanish boss. Also, we’re sure you already knew, it’s not at all true that Spanish workers are taking a siesta in the afternoon…
What can happen when you have a Swiss colleague, like our lovely Team Manager, Noemi? Our virtual trip goes from Spain to the homeland of chocolate (and watches, and cheese…).
And if it wasn’t clear that punctuality is King in Switzerland, Noemi told us “It is taken as disrespectful if you arrive more than 5 minutes late!”. Latecomers, you better change your habits!
You only need to climb over the Alps and you land in the Belpaese. Your Italian colleagues can (unsurprisingly) be really severe when talking about food: “Cappuccino is something you should never get after 11AM: the judgemental Italian look will be waiting for you” says Italian born Alberto Andreetto, Stylight’s Interaction Designer. But, please, don’t take their comments personally: “Being honest and open minded is a key characteristic and even if you hear us speaking a bit loud and arguing, you will most likely see us afterwards drinking a coffee to solve any misunderstandings.”
Senior PR Manager, Lisette Pennavaire, tells us a secret to Dutch communication habits: “Humor is an important part of our communication, as well as irony. So don’t take anything too seriously–we don’t–and make jokes.” Also, they really don’t sugarcoat anything: “That’s not considered rude. Au contraire, we prefer people to be frank and we treat everyone the same–be it a CEO, manager or PA. I guess it helps that they all know how to appreciate a broodje kroket at lunch time”, says our Amsterdam/Munich girl Lisette.
Mohammad is our AWS Engineer and he comes all the way from Iran, which is part of those countries where the “Early bird catches the worm”. Dealing with Iranian colleagues? Communication habits can be misleading as Iranians like to soften the blow of less than positive feedback: “We typically tend to hide negative feedback in between some nice words (it’s the way our language works). Unfortunately this can sometimes be a problem with English. So if things do not make sense it’s better to ask for further explanation.”
Another nation famous for beating around the bush: the Brits. These lot are the first to admit that they live up to a few of their stereotypes: “Brits love to be British. We love our Royal family and when it comes to things like the World Cup we all come together for one huge party!” says Lead Brand & Content UK/AU, Sian. And, hey, you don’t need to wait for the World Cup, be ready to hit the pub with your Brit colleagues also on Friday afternoons: “A lot of the larger companies do ‘Summer Fridays’ whereby you can leave at 3 on a Friday”.
Last stopover of our trip? We cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach the Canadian homeland–where working long hours seems to be the rule. “It’s totally normal that your work goes home with you” explains our Canadian UX Researcher, Alee Furman. And yes, if you’re a comfort lover, this might be the place for you: “A flannel outfit can be accepted–it depends on the company of course–Yoga pants are almost always okay in some shape or form!”.
We’ve come to the end of this episode, but this little world tour isn’t done. Stay tuned for episode 2, with new countries and insights, coming soon!
|By Ilenia Sarman – Senior PR & Communications Manager Italy|