The global business landscape is increasingly becoming more connected. With organisations expanding their operations to multiple countries, this has led to a rise in international offices, which comes with challenges. From cultural differences to language barriers, succeeding in a global office environment requires cultural awareness, communication skills, adaptability, and an open mindset. Here are some tips on how to thrive in an international office environment:

1. Build relationships with your colleagues:

When you start working at a new company, there is much to learn. Not only do you have to get up to speed on the company’s mission and values, but you also need to get to know your colleagues and their cultures. When you have good relationships with the people you work with, you’re more likely to enjoy coming to work and feel more supported in your career. Additionally, strong relationships with your colleagues can lead to more significant opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and networking.

Therefore, when starting a new job, it is always recommended to:

  • Make an effort to get to know your colleagues. Know their names, interests, and what they do outside of work.
  • Seek out opportunities to collaborate. Whether working on a project together or just bouncing ideas off each other, collaborating with your colleagues can help you build stronger relationships.
  • Offer your help and support. If you see a colleague struggling with something, offer to help, even if it’s not in your job description.

Building solid relationships with colleagues is essential in any office environment, and especially in an international office. Take the time to get to know your colleagues and show an interest in their culture and background. Celebrate the diversity in your office environment, and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow personally and professionally.

By learning about the cultures of your colleagues, you can create a more respectful and inclusive workplace for everyone. This includes being aware of holidays and cultural customs and being mindful of differences in communication style, as it will help you understand their behaviour and expectations.

2. Understand differences in communication styles:

When working abroad, the differences in communication style can often challenge employees. Effective communication is essential for creating strong relationships and ensuring successful collaboration. It is important to understand the cultural norms to ensure that you communicate effectively with your colleagues.

Cultural differences in communication can include the use of language, the introduction of new concepts, different levels of formality, and even gestures. Understanding how each culture communicates will help you build better relationships with international colleagues, which can result in increased productivity and smoother workflows.

Clarity

Make sure you communicate clearly, use simple language, and avoid jargon or idioms that may be unfamiliar to your colleagues. One key aspect of communication style to be aware of is how direct or indirect each culture is. Some cultures are very direct in their communication, while other cultures are more subtle in their approach. In some, it is essential to be clear and direct when conveying a message or making a point. In others, indirect language is preferred, and the listener is assumed to understand the implied message. Understanding which approach is expected in each situation can prevent misunderstandings and help you to get your point across more effectively.

Formality

Another aspect of cultural differences in communication is the level of formality used. In some cultures, a higher level of formality is expected, and it is important to use polite language, even with colleagues. A casual approach can be taken in others, with terms such as “dude” or “mate” allowed during conversations. Understanding which style is expected in each situation can help ensure that you make the right impression on your colleagues.

Non-verbal

It is also important to be aware of the differences in non-verbal communication. Gestures can mean different things in different cultures and lead to confusion if not understood properly. For instance, in some cultures, a thumb’s up sign may be interpreted as a sign of approval, while in others, it can be interpreted as rude or offensive. Understanding the meaning of non-verbal communication in each culture is critical to successful communication.

Understanding the differences in communication styles when working abroad requires open-mindedness, flexibility, and patience. By getting to know the culture and its expectations on communication, you will be better able to communicate effectively with colleagues from abroad and have a successful international business experience.

3. Respect differences in work styles:

Work styles can vary a lot from culture to culture. In some cultures, punctuality is highly valued, while hierarchical structures may be more common in others.

Respecting these differences is essential to maintain a cohesive team. If team members feel respected, they are more likely to be motivated and engaged. On the other hand, if team members feel that their differences are not respected, it can lead to conflict and communication breakdowns. Therefore, if you want to work effectively in a multicultural team, it’s essential to understand these differences. Doing so allows you to adapt your work style to better suit the group.

Initially, working in an international office environment can be overwhelming. Be open to new experiences, whether trying new foods, participating in cultural events or learning about different traditions. These experiences can be enriching and give you a different perspective on the world. Adapt to different work styles, communication styles, and cultural norms. Be open to feedback and willing to learn from your colleagues. By embracing change, you can grow personally and professionally in a multicultural setting.

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