Don't forget the locals!

Entry #3

At a recent networking event, I was speaking to a Singaporean entrepreneur. She had recently been in China for business and had been surprised at how different the culture was. "I am of Chinese heritage, my family follows many Chinese customs and I speak Mandarin," she said, "I never expected to feel so foreign there."

When I mention that Cultural Training Asia does cross-cultural training, many people automatically assume that the training is just for expats. Yes, cross-cultural training is important for both Western and Asian expatriates when they are moving to a new location. But, cross-cultural training is also important for the locals. Here are three reasons why:

1) Multi-national companies (MNCs)

Many Singaporeans work for multinational companies which are headquartered outside of Singapore. The values, processes and upper management at these companies are usually from the home culture, whether it be British, Chinese, American, Japanese, German, etc. Companies may train their local employees in the company culture, but it's rare that a company recognizes the challenges that the company's home country culture will have on the local employees. Here is a very simple everyday example: going out to lunch with colleagues is very important in Singapore. Since that is not considered at all important in Germany, Singaporeans who are working for German companies may find that their company culture or German manager makes this difficult.

2) Foreign workers

According to the Ministry of Manpower, Singapore has about 300,000 foreign workers on Employment Passes or S Passes. Most of these expats work in offices with Singaporean colleagues. While the foreigners might receive some cross-cultural training on working in Singapore, the Singaporeans typically do not receive training on how to work with their new colleagues. How would a local know that there could be very big differences in how their British co-worker communicates compared to their Dutch co-worker? The first time a Singaporean is given feedback from their very direct Dutch colleague, they may be shocked and feel that their colleague was extremely rude.

3) Prevalence of regional roles

The jobs of many Singaporeans include regional roles for which they have to travel, or at least to communicate, with foreign colleagues from other Asian countries. As the entrepreneur at the beginning of this article found out the hard way, there isn't one Asian culture. There may be some similar tendencies, such as those in Asian cultures tend to be more indirect speakers than their Western counterparts. But, there are important differences among Asian cultures. What is the best way for a regional manager in Singapore, who works for an American company, to give an appraisal over the telephone to his employee in Indonesia? The answer is probably not in the employee handbook.

Singapore's multicultural history has made people aware of the multitude of cultures living together. Often however this awareness is limited to the surface and is based on what we can see, hear, smell, touch, etc. We don't necessarily know the deeper values and assumptions of these cultures, or even the reasons why they use such different communication and leadership styles. Providing cross-cultural training can teach not only how these cultures are different but also how to build bridges and communicate effectively and in harmony with each other. For anybody who wants to work more effectively with their foreign colleagues or excel at their regional roles, this training is essential.

Written by Risa Heywood.


0 #2 profile 2018-10-31 19:46
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