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Cultural differences

Published on: 5 March 2018

When people from various cultures work together, it is important for them to learn how to deal with differences in cultural and social backgrounds, working styles, and competencies. This is not always easy, but it is very important to be able to work together comfortably.

Intercultural communication
Most My Flexworkers speak English, German, or sometimes even Dutch. If they do not, we recommend that they complete a language course as soon as possible. This will not only give them a better chance of finding a good job, but also helps create less miscommunication in the workplace. However, there is more to intercultural communication than just language alone.

People from Eastern Europe are often more formal in the beginning and tend to use formal language for a longer period. In the Netherlands, we tend to be very direct, not just in terms of what we say, but also in terms of how we say it. We make a lot of eye contact and reinforce our words with lots of gestures. This often takes some getting used to for migrant workers. They can experience the Dutch approach as unpleasant and offensive. On the other hand, it can be hard for Dutch people to read between the lines of what foreign people are saying. However, Dutch people are also seen as very reliable; yes means yes, and no means no.

Cultural differences at work
In the Netherlands, we are used to working in a project-based manner. ‘Here’s your deadline, these are the requirements, go do your thing!’ However, in many other countries, employees are used to being told exactly what to do and when to do it by their supervisors. Our working culture is less hierarchical, which foreign employees can struggle with. In many other cultures, the employees prefer decisive leaders who provide very direct guidance from a higher level.

The mentality regarding ‘logging hours’ and hard work also differs from one country and culture to the next. Workers from Eastern Europe are often real go-getters. They are pragmatic and proactive. They also generally have good technical insights, which can often lead to process improvements.

Many Eastern European workers like to keep their head down and keep working and do not stop to chat during work. They also do not mind long hours. After all, they travelled all the way to the Netherlands for a reason: to earn money and do a good job. Employers should not take advantage of this fact. All employers need to comply with regulations regarding working hours. For people to be properly focused during work and to ensure a safe workplace, you need your employees to be well rested.

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