foreign country

What Is It Like to Take a New Job in a Foreign Country?

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Last year I had a client who had taken a job in Germany. I asked him to share with my readers what this experience was like for him. My hopes are you’ll learn some things from his story, even if you aren’t taking a new job in a foreign country. I think the things he experienced can give you insights to what it’s like to enter into a different company culture or industry. Enjoy!

Fabian’s Story

Exploring the question, “What is it like to work in a foreign country?” reveals complexities beyond initial expectations. My experience was smoother than many others who relocate internationally for career opportunities. Several acquaintances of mine underwent such moves, each facing distinct challenges.

Possible obstacles

A primary obstacle is securing employment abroad, which encompasses numerous hurdles. Non-citizens need to navigate the visa process, a task I fortunately bypassed. Obtaining a visa can prove daunting, especially for those who are not fluent in the local language or lack assistance from a fluent speaker.

While immigration officers generally comprehend English, my observations suggest they respond more favorably to applicants conversant in the local tongue, often overlooking minor errors in application forms.

Local customs in the workplace

Understanding local customs and social dynamics is another significant adjustment. Upon my arrival in Germany, I was partially familiar with the local traditions.

A notable cultural aspect here is the emphasis on work-life balance. People generally start their workday early (between 7 and 8 AM) and finish by mid-afternoon (around 3 or 4 PM). This schedule allows time for personal activities like picking up children, socializing, gym visits, or handling household tasks. This routine is widely adhered to, evidenced by mostly empty parking areas by 4:30 PM.

Another adjustment involves familiarizing oneself with military time and the metric system, which are standard practices here, particularly in my field of engineering. Transitioning to these systems may require some time.

In commuting, many people opt for walking or public transportation over owning a car.

One cultural quirk I’ve found surprising and challenging is the local preference for regular ventilation. Despite the weather, it’s common to open windows several times daily to let in fresh air, even during freezing temperatures. This practice of frequent, brief ventilation is deeply ingrained and diligently followed.

Communication differences

The work environment has been uniformly friendly. Colleagues often engage in casual conversations over coffee or lunch. Meetings typically begin with a few minutes of light-hearted chatter about personal updates or weekend activities, setting a relaxed tone without pressuring anyone to share too much.

Direct communication is valued and expected, even with superiors. Expressing disagreement or pointing out potential mis-directions is not only accepted but encouraged. For example, following a disappointing meeting with a supplier, it’s customary to provide immediate and direct feedback rather than discussing it later behind their back.

The absence of micromanagement is a distinct characteristic here in Germany. Once you commit to a task, you’re trusted to manage it independently, with the expectation that you’ll raise concerns or propose solutions as needed.

Interested in taking a job in a foreign country?

I don’t know about you, but the perks of working in a foreign country such as Germany seem to outweigh the obstacles of getting there and the culture shock you may experience.

Work-life balance, absence of micromanagement, and being able to express disagreement with your superiors without the risk of retaliation sounds pretty good. But I’m still not sure I like the idea of opening windows in the middle of winter, especially after the week of winter weather we’ve had here in Nashville!

If you’re interested in taking a job in a foreign country, let’s talk. Click here to complete the paNASH intake form and to schedule a complimentary initial consultation. Completing the form does not obligate you in any way.

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How to Best Search For a Job When Relocating


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