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How To Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

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How To Overcome Cultural Barriers At Work

In today’s world, we see a lot of cultural barriers at the workplace. Thanks to globalization, people work in increasingly diverse environments, which means a mixture of cultures under the same organization. Sometimes, this can do more harm than good if people choose not to get along.

Cracking the code to cultural barriers however is as difficult as counting all the stars in the sky; there will always be something that goes unnoticed. Cultural barriers also exist pretty much everywhere, from the workplace to school and the local gym. Even at your local café, the act of tipping can be seen as necessary or something to be avoided depending on which country you live in.

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Although there is no single answer to cracking the code of cultural barriers, there are some practical things you can try out in order to make the most out of your time at work, and even gain some useful skills along the way.

1. Do Your Homework

It has become even more important to appreciate and learn about different cultures in order to fully appreciate the place you work in. Understanding is a big part of successful communication – for example, knowing that there are over 10 language dialects spoken within China, or that being British could mean coming from England, Wales or Scotland. Don’t even get me started on how many dialects and sub-cultures there are within Great Britain alone.

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Do as much research as you can on the city or country you currently work in, and there are a wealth of online resources to use, and friends and family to ask. Knowing whom you are getting into bed with, as they say, is one half of the equation to overcoming cultural barriers at work.

2. Use The Pantry

But research is not enough to help you. The other half is to live out your understanding in practice. There is no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than to meet the people currently living it. Using the pantry, so to speak, is a way to informally meet and get to know colleagues during work. For example, British workers love drinking tea throughout the day and so, often frequent the pantry to make a cuppa. You may find a great chance to bond over small chat about weekend escapades in this setting. If no such common room exists, having informal meetings in your office, at your desk or the local coffeehouse is also a great way to get to know others.

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3. Speak Their Language

If the cultural barriers at work are language related, this does not mean you have to take ten-hour lessons a week and learn to speak like a native. However, it always helps to know some basic phrases that you can use with a smile. Even a simple “¡Hola!” can make a whole lot of difference, because others will appreciate your sincerity in being approachable. However, if not using the local language is seriously hindering your ability to work with your colleagues, then it may be worth finding a tutor or language exchange group after work.

4. Try Everything Once

There are bound to be certain foods and activities that are commonly location specific, such as heading to a karaoke bar after work in Japan or a pub lunch at work in England. If you aren’t accustomed to these practices, go and try it out. Likely, you will enjoy it or you will hate it. Either way, you’ve gained a greater appreciation of what your colleagues enjoy doing and perhaps learn to love it or live with it as you continue working alongside them.

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It is also important to remember your own values and limits however – if you are a vegetarian then politely refusing meals with meat is fine. Or if you don’t drink, but work where work relationships are sometimes made alongside heavy drinking, as with some Chinese companies, you can refuse to join. Make your values known in a firm yet respectful manner, by accepting these practices with a nod, smile and a polite ‘no, thank you’.

Remember that ultimately whatever cultural norms exist, you are not bound to conform. Rather, appreciating your differences and building on things you have in common is the key to working alongside any culture in the world. Not everybody will want to befriend you but at least you will have gained a first-hand understanding of a different culture, at both your workplace and city.

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Last Updated on January 27, 2022

12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

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12 Reasons Why You Should Consider Working in Singapore

Nine out of 10 foreign workers are satisfied with working in Singapore, a recent governmental survey reports. Being ranked best for numerous criteria from best intellectual property protection laws to the easiest country to do business in, Singapore also receives a bunch of accolades for the overall quality of life, top education standards and efficient medical system, ranking the nation as the healthiest in the world. So, what exactly makes the City of Lions such an impeccable place to start your career or relocate your business? Here are just 12 reasons why you should consider doing it!

1. Singapore ranks second as the most globalized economy in the world

The Global Competitiveness Report 2014 – 2015 named Singapore as the world’s second prospering economy. By defining “competitiveness” as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of productivity of a country, the report claims to be the most authoritative assessment of the country’s prosperity and well-being. What does that mean for you and me? High wages, low unemployment rate, excellent work conditions and nourishing business development and investment climate.

2. Salaries are extremely lucrative

As the economy is booming, Singapore companies are hungry to acquire overseas specialists, offering top salaries and lucrative benefit packages to attract highly-skilled workers and talents. With a median salary of 3.500$ per month, software engineers can earn up to 72.000$ annually, whereas general practitioners usually receive around 80.000$ per year, according to PayScale. Elementary school teachers earn around 34.000$ per year and working as a waitress part time will bring you around 1100$ per month.

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3. Progressive personal tax system

Calculating and paying taxes in Singapore is extremely easy and usually takes around 30 seconds to submit your online tax return. If you already obtained a residence permit, your personal taxes in Singapore range from 0% if you earn less than S$ 22.000 per year to 20% for incomes above S$ 320,000. Non-residents are expected to pay a flat rate of 15% from all income gained in Singapore. In addition, all of your earnings gained overseas and brought to the country are not subjected to any taxes.

4. Getting a work/residence permit is really easy…

With a population of only five million, and dropping fertility rates, Singapore is highly interested in acquiring new residence and labor force to boost the country’s economy to soaring heights. If you already have a job offer secured, applying for a work permit would take only a few clicks on the governmental website and you will know the outcome within just one day. No lines, no paper bureaucracy and no huge list of supportive documents or blankly stated requirements. Their entire procedure is even simpler if you are a business owner wishing to relocate your business to Singapore, or a start-up entrepreneur wishing to develop your company within the island. You are likely to receive your work permit for a longer term, plus the renewal process is fast and simple. Residence permits are usually issued along with your work permit for the same period of time.

5. …And the same with permanent residence status

If you have lived and worked in Singapore for over a year and enjoyed your experience, you can start considering applying for a permanent resident card. Again, the whole process can be done online without much hassle or paperwork involved. Among the factors of a successful outcome, expats name young age (below 50), educational background (degrees obtained in Singaporean universities will earn you extra points), the industry you work in (again extra points to those who are involved in scientific research and working with innovative technologies), and your ability to speak one of the four languages. The processing time does take up to six months.

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6. The adaptation process goes easy

As English in the main working language you won’t experience the dreaded language barrier. The local society is an absolute melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and British cultures with 42% of population being foreigners. There is a huge amount of expat communities and meet-ups, restaurants serving awesome foods from all over the world, and imported goods you are used to buying back at home. As expats say, “Singaporeans are generally very comfortable with diversity and have been very welcoming to foreigners” with rare case of racism or religion discrimination occurring. There are numerous international and English schools available, along with pre-school daycare centers, so your kids won’t experience much troubles either when changing environments.

7. Top notch higher education

If at any stage you feel like lacking relevant educational background or certain skills to get a promotion, you should consider getting a degree in one of the six Singapore universities. National University of Singapore currently ranks number one in Asia and 22nd in the world offering degrees in Arts, Law, Medicine, Computer Sciences, Public Policy and nearly any other profession in demand. Tuition fees for undergraduate programs range from S$ 28.600 to S$ 129,200 for medical degrees. However, all students (foreign or resident) can apply for governmental grants and tuition aid, cutting down the costs by 50%, as currently around 20% of government spendings go into education. If you are aiming at a top executive position, getting an MBA in Singapore will cost you S$ 58,000 full-time or part-time.

8. It takes three days to open a business

Being ranked #1 for the ease of doing businesses by World Bank consequently for seven (!!!) years, starting your business in Singapore is easy and fast indeed. The whole process is done online and your registration will be deemed completed within a few hours after you pay a registration fee of the S$65. Afterwards, you can either refer for further assistance to ACRA (Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority) offering you a huge selection of agencies and providers to handle all your business needs – from business start-up services to preparing all the documents for your annual returns.

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9. Singapore is rated #1 as the best labor force in the world

As your business grows and you feel it is time to expand, hiring new professional team won’t be much of a struggle. With expats and work migrants flooding the market, local labors are known for their effectiveness, strong work ethics and superb educational profiles. Filling in top executives and managerial positing will not be a problem either as the share of high-skilled professionals with relevant background rose from 27% in 2003 to 31% in 2013. Moreover, 25% of residents reported to have worked for the same company for 10 years, which means less personnel changes and headhunting.

10. Low crime rates and zero corruption

Currently ranked the 5th least corrupted country in the world, Singapore surpassed a long chain of reforms and law enforcement practices on the road to a bribe-free society. The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau has kept an eye on matters since 1952 and tries all cases according to strict Singapore laws with long-term jail sentences and huge fines up to S$ 100,000. Same goes towards any sort of crimes–even minor offenses are treated with extreme severity. Think: three months of jail and three hard cane strokes for painting graffiti on a war memorial. When living and working in Singapore you don’t need to worry about your belongings getting stolen, nor your life threatened. Besides, you don’t need to have any sort of “special connections” to do business and get through all the legal and bureaucratic procedures.

11. You can become a millionaire in less than 10 years

According to a recent report issued by Boston Consulting Group, over one half of wealthy Singaporeans accumulated the majority of their wealth in less than 10 years. That’s the quickest growing rate in the world. Now, Singapore boasts one of the highest millionaires’ density in the world with 8.8% of the population having assets over one million US dollars. The phenomenon exists due to the ease of doing businesses in Singapore, advantageous location with easy access to nearby booming markets of India, Indonesia and Malaysia and quick implementation of progressive new technologies.

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12. Absolute political stability

Obviously, your business and you as an employee do not exist in a vacuum and are highly dependent on governmental policies and law-making. The Singaporean government is known for conducting open and fair policy towards constantly introducing new laws, tax relieves, and regulations to enhance the countries’ business environment even more. With the People Action’s Party forming the majority in Parliament since 1965, Singapore has a very stable and orderly government indeed.

Featured photo credit: Larry Teo via unsplash.com

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