Vladlena Opeskina is our Marketing Specialist from Russia who has joined the team in June 2018. We have asked her to share her experience and describe what it feels like – being an expat in Germany and working in a team with more than 16 nationalities.
We are often limited to our own cultures, traditions, working ethics. When entering a multinational team, you open yourself for new opportunities, you realize that people can think differently and it is neither wrong or right, it is just not what you are used to. You become open-minded and stop expecting certain behaviours or beliefs. Nothing is ‘normal’ or ‘not normal’ anymore, you learn to accept and respect the differences and work primary on yourself by adapting to this environment and learning how to work together as a team. Moreover, you get a chance to see your own culture and background from a different perspective with the eyes of your colleagues. You do not only represent your country, you also fight with the stereotypes (or confirm them sometimes ? ) and share your culture, knowledge and traditions.
The majority of us are expats and this certainly creates a very special feeling in the air. You hear different languages around you all the time, celebrate Chinese New Year and Russian pancake week, try different traditional cuisines (things you might have never tried otherwise). Also, I personally think that we are closer to each other than any other regular colleagues. Many of us face the same challenges: we are away from our families and our friends trying to get accustomed to the German culture and build a whole new life here. From big emotional struggles to small bureaucracy issues – we understand each other quite well and whenever someone is going through hard times everyone is always there to help. I think that this is unique. And our German colleagues are also very supportive, they simply have more knowledge and opportunities to help sometimes for obvious reasons.
I figured for myself that it is very important to leave all the prejudices aside and always try to listen to your colleagues. Sometimes different ideas seem weird to me at first and I feel like I would never do something like this, but we work with so many different markets and at the end we have no idea how things work out there. For example, when we only started with China marketing, we assumed that we can just translate our general communication to Chinese and post it on local channels. Imagine my surprise when a colleague suggested changing the wording we use into something more emotional. Words like ‘sweetie’ in a greeting or expressions like ‘Fintiba makes your blood rush through your veins’ work very well. Also a lot of exclamation marks. Always!!!
Here at Fintiba we have a very special mix of working cultures. Ironically, those are the small things that stand out the most. The way of communication, little differences in working behaviour. Someone is always calm and structured, others are in contrast quite emotional. For some cultures it is common to be all the time on the go, rushing around the office solving problems and dealing with as many things as possible, others would only be there where they absolutely need to be. There are different approaches to timing, project organization, perception of work issues and communication with partners. You feel the differences of course, but at the end we are all professionals just doing things in a slightly different way.
You will see this hashtag a lot in our communication. And it’s not just the hashtag for the employees, it is kind of the motto of what we do in general. With our team we represent our clients, the community of people that come to study and live in Germany. Our mission is to support them all the way and of course it makes absolutely no sense if we ourselves are not comfortable and do not feel like home here. If you would stop by at our office on a Friday afternoon, you would most likely find us having beer on a terrace, discussing the news and sharing ideas. We share a lot of moments together, for example, last spring the whole team participated in a marathon and in the autumn we all went to Oktoberfest here in Frankfurt.
Challenges and Conflicts
Of course such an international environment brings up a lot of different challenges as well. You have to pay more attention to what you say and how you do it than if you were working at your home country. Be more sensitive and always try to avoid offending someone unintentionally.
Most of the conflicts we might have come out of misunderstandings. Whether it is a language issue, behavioural peculiarities or differences of opinions, we always have to make sure we understand each other’s points correctly and see the reasoning behind it. My personal strategy is always to ask as many questions as I can until I fully understand someone’s point of view and only then share my opinion and express disagreement.
My advice to anyone who wants to work in an international team like ours – be prepared to accept and respect people with different backgrounds and be curious about other cultures and traditions. It is truly a unique opportunity to learn a lot of new things!
Also, never rush into opinions are prepare to be as open-minded as you can ?