Culture and language

Workplace culture

Workplace culture differs in every country. In order to get a good view on how to adapt to workplace culture in the country where you want to work is to read about workplace culture in a specific country. An even better way is to talk to a person that actually works in that country.

In the Western workplace, your boss and supervisor will most likely tolerate and even encourage some form of office banter. Managers will usually leave staff to their own devices, allowing them to listen to music, take breaks, chat and browse the internet during work hours – as long as work is completed. Colleagues and managers will often go for lunch or a drink after work, but serious “organized fun” activities are few and far between. Planned events such as Christmas and retirement parties often revolve around drinking as opposed to team building activities.

When it comes to business etiquette in most Western countries they tend to favour formal arrangements where documentation and formalities are preferred over personal relationships in business. Punctuality in Western European countries tends to be valued.

Worklife social media

Another example of differences can be found in the use of social media networks for business purposes. Here’s an example for Europe: While LinkedIn is one of the primary professional social networks in Luxemburg and the Netherlands, Germanys’ most used business network is called Xing and in France it is Viadeo.

Asking questions

Although juniors in a workplace still do the tasks their managers give them, it’s normal to ask questions and to come up with your own ideas. Moreover, in many western companies employees are encouraged to offer improvements to the company’s development.

Working overtime

Western workplaces are relatively laid back when it comes to working hours. Although companies in some countries once had the ticket punching system (for professionals), nowadays it tends to be all well and good as long as the job gets done. In most offices you’ll see staff working to the clock, with a mass exodus at 5/6pm, save for those working on last-minute tasks. Overtime is much less common than in China, and workers are routinely compensated with additional pay, flexible working hours or time off if working extra hours is unavoidable.

Compliment and feedback

For the Western people, paying and receiving compliments is a usual part of their daily life. You are also expected to give compliments and feedback to both your colleagues and also to your manager.

Doing business

In many western countries people go straight to business.

There might be a couple of business dinners planned, but only as a part of business traditions.

The way people negotiate differs a lot, too.  In the USA offers and decisions are stated clearly. ‘Yes’ means ‘yes’, ‘no’ means ‘no’, and ‘3000$’ means ‘3000$’.

(To generalize, western)?

To generalize western people come to negotiations to discuss the main points and get the result right away. They always wait for this chance and are happy when they manage to bring down the price offered by another side or win more beneficial conditions.

Hierarchy and Layout

Modern-day Western workplaces tend  to favor flatter organizational structures. Senior management may still enjoy the luxury of an office, but they’ll more than likely be very vocal about how proud they are of their “open-door policy”. Management can usually be approached via a quick knock on their glass-paneled wall, and will hopefully be happy to discuss any work or even personal problems with their staff.

Meetings

In the West, meetings are typically used as a way to spark quick-fire conversation and ideas. As a result you can expect coffee shop meetings, stand-up meetings and even plank meetings, where staff members must hold a stress position while talking. This ensures points are kept short and sweet. Western-style meetings also tend to invite feedback from all participants regardless of tenure and seniority.

Language

Although English will take you far, it’s very useful if you learn the basics of your possible new home country’s language. It’s a good idea to learn at least some words before going to your job abroad – and when you have arrived in your new country make sure to start language training in a class or with a private tutor.