Working in multicultural team
In autumn 2019 I was taking part of Artful Business Creation minor in The Hague University of Applied Sciences. I spend three months in Netherlands and in this essay, I will tell more about my experience, especially from a cross-cultural viewpoint.
It was really exciting to live in Netherlands for three months. Even though I’ve travelled a lot, it was my first time in Netherlands. They have many similarities with our culture but there were also many differences for example in school. Even so I really enjoyed Netherlands and I think I could move permanently there in some day. Here are some examples of what kind of difficulties and experiences I faced with Dutch culture.
First when we started our studies in university, we were told that teachers are strict about timing and you should not come late to classes. Soon we noticed that Dutch people are not as strict as Finnish people about time schedules. For instance, many students came really late to classes and also teachers were not on time. Needless to say, that for us Finnish people that was really annoying. Especially when we were working on our group assignments it was really frustrating to wait for other students to show up. Mostly they weren’t even sorry for being late. Good thing about that was that we were never the ones to show up late and teachers appreciate it even though they were late usually.
To my surprise Dutch people were almost always on time when it comes to leisure. They have high work motivation and most of them are otherwise really conscientious, but youngsters just value their leisure more than working. It is really common that young people want to spend quality time with their friends and family and not be so concentrated on their career all the time. On the other hand, in Netherlands people go to university between ages 17-19. In Finland we do not go that early to university so in my opinion Finnish university students are more mature when they start their studies. Over half of our classmates in The Hague lived still with their parents. Most of them were younger than us and in Netherlands it is not that common to move to your own place when you turn 18. Therefore, it is completely understandable that they were not so concentrated and motivated to school all the time.
While working on our group assignment I got to know how it is really to work with multicultural team. In our class there were different nationalities yet most of them were from Netherlands. It was really nice to work in multicultural team with people who did not know anything about me nor Finland. First, I thought they would know some things about Finland but their knowledge about our country was quite poor so most of the time they just mixed us up with Sweden. That did not disturb me because it was nice to get to tell them about Finland and most of them were very interested.
Common things between Dutch work culture and Finnish work culture is that we both appreciate really effective meetings and we do not want to spend too much time to small talk etc. In Netherlands most of our meetings were very effective, and we always went straight to the point. In my opinion it is really easy to be Finnish and work or study in Netherlands because we have many similarities in our working culture. Of course, there are differences between people and their characters but the main mindset and idea in working is same.
One important thing in Dutch culture is the after-work culture. It is really common to spend time with workmates in the afternoon. Especially in Thursday evenings The Dutch are gathering with their school and work friends and go to dinners and drinks with them. I found it really nice and that is something I would like to also have in Finland. It is good way to get to know your teammates better. After all you spend so much time with them every day so why not get to know them better.
Living in Netherlands is quite expensive, and it was first really hard to find apartment from The Hague. Finally, we found apartment with help of our friends. It was expensive and in poor condition, but we could not complain about it because at least we had some place to stay. In the middle of our exchange period there were water leak in our apartment and when we told our landlord about it he did not do anything about it. We heard that it is really common in Netherlands that the cheaper apartments are leaking, and landlords do not care about it. First, we were very worried about the water leak but when our schoolmates told that it is normal, and we should not worry about it, we were just amused by it.
So, what I learned from studying in the Netherlands and what are my tips to working and studying abroad?
First of all, I think the key to success in studying and working abroad is that when you are open minded and ready to understand other cultures you will handle different situations very well. Also, it is important to be ready to tell about your own culture and how you are used to work, so others will also understand your behavior.
One important thing to remember is also to always ask if you do not understand something. Needless to say, there are no stupid questions when it comes to working. When we were discussing about something in my team sometimes there were some words that one of us did not understand and we always asked immediately what the word means and some of us explained it in other words and that was our way to be on same page all the time.
One thing to mention is that if you are planning to work or study abroad it is worth to find out what kind of culture do they have in country you are heading. If you have some knowledge about your destinations culture before you go there it will help you to settle down faster.
Working in international environment is really eye opening and I really hope that in my future work I will have multicultural workplace. Sometimes it is really frustrating and slow to work in international environment but once you get to know your teammates and their working habits it is much more fun and educational, and you will learn so many new things that you would not learn anywhere else. To sum up I would like to say that my exchange studies in the Netherlands were so far my best experience in whole school time. I will always remember those three months and I got so much helpful experience for my future.