Hey, it’s Vivian again. A few weeks ago I introduced myself as one of the participants in the Dräger International Graduate Program >life<. In this article I am going to tell you about what I was occupied with in Lübeck and give you a little insight on the differences between the life in my home country China compared to the life in Germany working at the headquarters.
For example the structures of the finance department are totally different. In the headquarters accounting and controlling are two separate businesses, in my home country some of the staff is doing both. Besides, in my home country people have very limited freedom of choosing the check-in and check-out time every day, while in the headquarters employees enjoy more freedom on this.
Supported by my manager I was occupied with finishing a regional quality reporting and controlling project aiming at renewing the regional country quality scorecard (a strategy performance management tool) in terms of content, layout and tooling. This project was pretty new and interesting because my manager and I almost had to start from scratch and I didn’t have any background knowledge about quality, so I had a lot of new things to learn and the opportunity to develop my own ideas.
This was very compelling and challenging for me and gave me a lot of motivation to fulfill the expectations from both my manager and myself. I worked out some templates for certain files and developed several ways of processing the data, as well as gaining much progress on my Excel skills.
Besides, I had the opportunity to receive several trainings on CIS and Transparency, which I didn’t have access to in my home country. I also had the opportunity to contact people from different departments especially from the quality department, so now I also have a better knowledge of the quality department as well as of the safety site.
These things were all new to me and I really appreciate that I was able to get myself involved in this project and did something interesting and challenging. I had some difficulty communicating with people from totally different backgrounds before, but now I found my way of effectively asking questions and getting across my ideas.
Even before I set off for Germany I knew I should prepare myself for the incoming cultural difference. But when I really started working with the graduates and colleagues from other countries, I was still surprised by the differences between different cultures and realized how deeply my own culture has influenced me.
One of the most different aspects between the western and eastern cultures is that westerners tend to express themselves in an open and direct way, especially the German ones. Sometimes when giving feedback for example , some westerners may also be kind of indirect but Germans will always speak out what they truly think and whether they like it or not. Normally Germans are very nice and they welcome questions from other people, but they would give definite answers of “yes” or “no” to let you know their opinions.
When attending those international training sessions and meetings, I also had the chance to get to know many people from different countries. One interesting cultural difference I noticed is body language: non-Asian people often sit in a more relaxed and cozy way whereas Asians do the opposite, and non-Asians normally say something in a louder voice than their Asian colleagues, with many gestures and different positions which even helps to draw more attention to them. Deeply influenced by their traditional cultures, Asian people tend not to be the center of focus and try to make themselves look small. So when facing a group of new faces, Asian people speak much less than other international friends.
After the 6 months in Germany, I was surprised by the different pace of life between Europe and Asia. My German colleagues normally don’t need to work extra hours and it is not allowed by the laws either. In China, people are more motived to work overtime and for some of them it is an important way to support their families. Thus European people do have a slower pace of life and I was able to see a better work-life balance in Europe than in China. I still remember in Germany when I walked to work every day (which is hardly possible in China), the cars would always wait for pedestrians to go first where there is no traffic lights and people walked in a calmer and easier way. While in China, I guess if the cars stop to let people cross the roads, then they will never get going again because we just have so many people, and in order to catch the public transport, people would hurry as if they may lose something if they didn’t. I think living on the go is a common thing the developing countries share while the developed European countries can enjoy more balance between work and life.
I do appreciate the 6 months in Germany and Dräger for providing me this opportunity. I was lucky to get to know so many people from different cultural backgrounds and learned how to work and communicate in an international company. Truly I was surprised by the culture difference between my colleagues and foreign friends, but I was more amazed by the common thread between us—how we share the same opinion, how quickly we can understand each other with an open mind and how we adapt to the international environment despite our culture backgrounds. These experiences are fascinating and rewarding, and will for sure be an unforgettable memory of my life.