The Top Ten Mistakes Employees Make When Relocating
Date: 20 October 2005, AMSTERDAM − Dutch Managing Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility(ELM), Nannette Ripmeester, an expert on international mobility issues, sums up the top ten mistakes expat employees make when relocating. The author of 31 expat guides on forty countries explains why these mistakes happen and how to avoid them.
Date: 20 October 2005
AMSTERDAM − Dutch Managing Director of Expertise in Labour Mobility(ELM), Nannette Ripmeester, an expert on international mobility issues, sums up the top ten mistakes expat employees make when relocating. The author of 31 expat guides on forty countries explains why these mistakes happen and how to avoid them.
The top ten blunders:
1) Misguided leadership. A Dutch manager in France who asks during his first day at work, the opinion of his French management team regarding a plan, is looked upon as incompetent. In France a boss is expected to lead his employees. It is important for an expat to be prepared for the new society in which he has to work in, explains Nannette.
2) Unable to adjust to a different pace of life. For the Greeks, drinking coffee is a social event, for the Dutch, a necessary caffeine shot. Knowing whether lunch is an important social activity or just a moment in which to recharge your body can be essential.
3) Greeting the wrong way. In Asian cultures, you loosely shake someone’s hands, in contrast to the firm American or European handshake. At the same time, you avoid eye contact so as to show respect, unlike employees from Western cultures who deliberately seek eye contact. "Very often expats just don’t have enough time to prepare themselves before moving to a new culture".
4) Can’t speak a couple of native words. Even if the inhabitants speak your language fluently, natives appreciate it if you attempt to speak their language. It helps bridge the cultural gap. Often expats underestimate the importance of knowing and speaking another culture’s language, comments Nannette. She advises taking a speed course before leaving.
5) Blind to a country’s working habits and meeting culture. Some cultures use a meeting as a means to inform everyone. Whereas for others, reaching an agreement is the objective of the meeting. As a foreigner, you should know exactly what the goal of a meeting is.
6) Ignorant about subtle changes in sex roles. Male and female roles at work vary according to culture. A Finnish female manager gives direct orders just like her male colleagues. This "tough" behaviour is perceived by the Dutch as "bitchy" behaviour. As Nannette explains, "The ‘yes but’ response instead of a clear ‘no’ is expected from Dutch female managers. Just because countries border or are close to one another, doesn’t mean their sex roles or cultural habits are the same.
7) Not grasping the function of e-mail in a country. In France and Spain, it is important to contact someone first by telephone before e-mailing. Otherwise, as opposed to Northern European employees who respond swiftly, you might not receive an e-mail from a French or Spanish colleague for a couple of months.
8) Oblivious to the multiple interpretations of "strategy" and "contracts". A U.S. company working in a "suing culture" will expect elaborate details for its contract. Out of politeness, an Asian director will sign a contract, but the signature means little if he has no intention in carrying out the contract. If the Asian director agrees, a handshake is sufficient enough to close the deal. An American director who uses the words "long term planning" might mean a couple of years, whereas a French director interprets the term as ten to fifteen years. "These are things to get cleared up right away".
9) Misinformed about the social ladder. Germany has a far more formal and traditional corporate ladder than the Netherlands, a culture which is less formal and believes in reaching consensus with its employees.
10) Biggest stumbling block: the spouse and kids. When the wife is sent abroad to work for a multinational, will the husband be granted a work permit and can the kids adapt to their new school? Nannette’s advice is to prepare your plans in advance, whether you intend to work, study or pick up a hobby.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news