Expats working in the foreign nations face various issues and challenges. For example, research findings indicate that culture is one of the profound issues that foreigners have to cope with. If they are unable to cope with the host country culture, it makes it difficult for them to interact and work with the locals effectively (Singh, 2013, p. 48). This report strives to discuss the perception of expats on foreign cultural diversity. To achieve this, the report engages on carrying out an interview with an expat working in Singapore. The interview will largely focus on determining expertise's perception on the Singaporean culture as well cultural issues and challenges that he might have faced while interacting with the Singaporeans.
The interview was conducted to Mr. Hollins. Mr. Hollins is male, and a US citizen is working with Broadcom Limited in Singapore as engineering technologists. He was born in 1986 and attained his professional qualification from California Institute of Technology in 2007. Since then, he has worked in several countries such as Canada and South Africa. He has been working in Singapore since 2016. Just like any other foreigner, Hollins admits that conforming to the different cultures exhibited by the host countries is a challenge. He further notes, it has not been easy for him to learn and understand the culture of all the three countries including Singapore.
In the process of interviewing Hollins, the report focused on determining the cultural issues and challenges that Mr. Hollins has faced in leaving and working globally. Ideally, the foreigners working in the oversea nations are likely to find it difficult to live and work globally. This is influenced by factors such as language and cultural practices that may be difficult to understand (Chang & Young-Chul , 2015, p. 150). Likewise, it was the case with Hollins. For example, Hollins observed that the Singaporean culture is one of the most diverse in the world. The Singaporean culture comprises of Western, Indian, Malay and Chinese influences (Young, 2014). “It becomes difficult to determine on which culture to adapt to,” Says Hollins. From Mr. Hollins observation this report finds it is important to note that it is essential for an expat going for the assignment in the oversea countries to understand cultural norms and behaviors that he or she will come across and how he will be able to react to them. Mr. Hollins learned this from the South Africa experience, and therefore it was easy for him to embrace the Singaporean culture despite it being diverse.
While in Singapore, Mr. Hollins noted that group and team work is highly appreciated in the country. This culture is rooted in the family set up whereby the extended family is highly regarded, and the close family friends are treated as the part of the family. Additionally, he observed that aspects of mutual security, harmony and group are more crucial than that of individuality. Again, Mr. Hollins observed that respect is an important aspect that makes up the Singaporean culture. According to Hollins respect is an attribute of personal dignity. He was able to observe that the Singaporeans values respect from the notion that respect is an expensive element that someone can be given, earned and it can also be taken away. “In fact, respect is what makes Singaporeans exist in a harmonious society and relationships with foreigners,” Hollins noted.
As observed earlier with an encounter with Mr. Hollins, Singaporean culture is greatly impacted by other foreign cultures. From the outward look, someone can claim that Singapore is an egalitarian society. However, from the Hollins point of view, this is not the case. There are strong hierarchical relationships between employers and employees as well as parents and children. This an important cultural value in Singapore and finds its roots in the concept of the group dependence. From the observation of Mr. Hollins, this report comments that the egalitarian society in Singapore is drawn from Confucianism. This Confucianism approach calls for respecting those you old and have a higher status in the society (Young, 2014). Similarly, this observable in the workplace as Mr. Hollins explains, “In the workplace, respect is highly regarded to the employees who are older irrespective of the job position."
Other cultural issues that Hollins came across included non-verbal communication that is widely used by the Singaporeans to establish to express their feelings. Secondly, etiquette and customs are also observed highly valued especially during meetings and greetings. Greetings observe a certain protocol based on the age or ethnic origin of the person. However, this is not the case for the young people working with the international companies who have learned the culture of handshaking.
Analysis and Evaluation
Personal Reaction Level
Based on the experience Mr. Hollins, I have learned that the Singaporean culture is friendly to the foreigners. However, for it to be easy for the expats like Mr. Hollins to cope with, they have to be ready to forgo their own home country culture while they are in Singapore. For example, Mr. Hollins testified that if a foreigner enters Singapore with the notion that his or culture is superior compared to that of the native workers he or he will be perceived as arrogant. As noted earlier in this report, Singaporeans appreciates and values respect. Mr. Hollins on several occasions witnessed that to gain cooperation and the support of the local workers you have to appreciate and value their culture. According to Young (2014), Singaporeans are welcoming people and open when they are treated with respect. Failure to observe this it will be difficult to associate with the Singaporeans. Therefore, if I were in the same position as Hollins, I would have used the aspect of respect to gain my acceptance from the Singaporeans. However, Mr. Hollins now is aware of the value of respect in the Singaporean society, and therefore he has been interacting and cooperating with the local workers without difficulties.
The report also noted that from Mr. Hollins stay in Singapore did not take him long before he or she learns the locals’ culture. Through cocktail functions, birthday events, workshops, presentations, lunches, and breakfasts someone will observe that it is very easy for the different cultures in Singapore to develop together. With the observation of respect of each culture, Mr. Hollins found that different cultures can co-exist harmoniously. He further noted that the Singaporeans would not notice the difference cultures provided that they are treated with respect. The report observes that the key element of group strength as exhibited by the Singaporeans is humility ( Rajasekar & Renand, 2013, p. 146). Mr. Hollins advocated that the expats who lacked to show humility while interacting with the natives found it difficult to gain the acceptance of the Singaporeans irrespective of the superiority of the country origin.
Again, this report finds that Mr. Hollins experienced some difficulties in understanding the suitable communication approach to apply while interacting with the Singaporeans. This paper can infer that Singaporeans hates being sidelined along the ethnic lines. In one of the occasions, Mr. Hollins learned that an individual communication should not portray that a certain group of people belongs to a particular ethnicity. The practice of this kind of communication creates separation between the expat and the local workers who feel that they are being judged. For example, Mr. Hollins says when someone uses the term “they” when referring to Singaporeans it is perceived that the expat foreigner lacks communication etiquette and is being disrespectful to the Singaporeans.
The inclusion of employees is very important in decision making. Failure to observe this technique in Singapore, there is a likelihood of a foreigner being labeled insensitive and arrogance. Singaporeans don't like being despised, and therefore they appreciate, and they feel valued when the expats listen and inquire about their ideas. According to Singh (2013, p. 48) when the employees’ views that their culture is being valued and they are treated as part of the organization, they align their efforts with the strategic goals and objectives of the company.
Just like any organization, an expat is supposed to ensure that he or she integrates with the foreign culture to be able to corporate with the natives (Gerald, 2010, p. 3). Despising the locals’ culture with the notion that the expat’s culture is superior will only earn someone a hard stay and association with the host country locals. On the other side, local workers may not understand what is expected out of them by the multinational employers. This scenario creates the clashing of the host country and home country culture. Therefore, there is still plenty of work to undertake to integrate foreign culture to the local culture. However, despite that there is a possibility of bringing different cultures together and establish an environment for them to co-exist.
For example, in Singapore it is a bit a challenge for the expats to understand the Singlish, unofficial language ( ko & YANG, 2011, p. 162). Even though English is termed as an official and business language, the Singaporeans have a preference of speaking Singlish in the social setting. Mr. Hollins as an expat does not want to confine the interaction with the Singaporeans only at the workplace. He also wants to intermingle with them in social gatherings so that he can be part of their culture. This makes it difficult for other experts just like Hollins to interact with the natives outside a business context.
Apart from language, the xenophobia of the expats is slowly growing in Singapore. Even though Singapore is termed as a multiracial nation, the locals feel that the foreigners are being favored at their expense (Young, 2014). Xenophobia culture is slowly gaining momentum in the country, and Hollins says that it may become difficult in future for the expats to cooperate with the Singaporeans. Hollins observed that Singaporeans were not happy when they lost their jobs for the expats to be employed. Despite that Hollins has not been the victim of this before, he advises that is concern that needs to be addressed.
The above negatives about the Singaporean culture are just a few representations of the many others omitted in this report. The Singaporean culture is one of the most accommodating, and that is why the country has been termed as a multicultural hub (Johnny, 2013). Provided some cultures do not accommodate the foreigners, the Singaporean culture cannot be disputed by just a few negative elements. However, as Johnny (2013) puts it, an expat anticipating to go oversea country have to carry a thorough research to ascertain the critical elements surrounding the host country culture. This will help him identify the potential problems as well how to overcome them. For example, Hollins was not aware of the high cost of living before entering the Singapore. It came as a shock to him that the costs of renting a house as well as owning a car were too high.
From the interview with Hollins, the report also noted that the cultural differences in Singapore are not embraced. According to Hollins, the Singaporeans believes that you should conform to their culture as well as respect it. “When in Rome do as the Romans,” Jokingly Hollins responds. This means that each culture around the world should be tolerant to one another despite the country of origin. Research findings reveals that in certain situations expats have turned down oversea assignments when they find that host country culture cannot accommodate them because of cultural differences (Chang & Young-Chul, 2015, p. 150).
There are varied issues and challenges facing expats working overseas. The secret to overcome or to avoid these problems lays behind doing research before physically moving to the host nation. This will help an expat avoid issues such as relationship problems, financial pressure, and loneliness. For example, as Hollins advocates, in Singapore, an expat will be isolated for either disrespecting the locals or terming his or culture superior compared to that of the natives. It will be wrong and misinformed for the expat to think that he or she can live and work abroad comfortably without putting consideration the culture of the host country.
Ko, H.-C. & YANG, M.-L., 2011. The Effects of Cross-Cultural Training on Expatriate Assignments. Intercultural Communication Studies, XX(1), pp. 158-174.
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