10 Dec 2018
Different Work Cultures in Asia
If you are going to work in an Asian country, you will probably feel frustrated about the communication. When you believe communication with someone who do not speak the same mother language as yours is the greatest challenge you’ve ever had, you think in the wrong way! Language is never the biggest monster you need to fight against but the office cultures. Before coming to Asia, you should understand that the Asian countries share similar culture but not exactly the same. Therefore, you should be aware of the difference of office cultures even if you move from an Asian country to another one.
Some Asian countries have strong work culture. Take Japan as example, the workplaces are very formal. Westerns are more casual in the office. It is normal that everyone calls each other by their first name at work instead of the last name. However, doing so in Japan could make the Japanese surprised as they think that calling one’s first name in workplace is not respectful. Calling each other by last name is the very first step, the second step is to familiarize with the hierarchy system. The hierarchy system is still quite strong in many workplace in Indonesia, Korean and Japan. That’s why you have to clearly know the seniority of your co-workers. Once you know the seniority, you can know who you should greet first.
Other than that, you may need to pay attention to the dress code. Take Japan as an example, most businessmen wear grey, navy or black suit with ties every single day, no matter in summer or winter. You can easily find people on the streets wearing similar outfit. Therefore, it is probably not a good idea to outshine from others. The unwritten rules of dress code may vary among different countries, so you better observe more.
Don’t think that everything is over once the working hour is over. Most westerns prefer work-life balance and less likely to work overtime. Yet, you should not expect leaving on time when working in Asian countries. Leaving earlier than your supervisor is weird in China as everyone pretends to be a hard working employee. Instead of staying in office, Korean would have after-work dinner/ drink with their co-workers as they believe that it is the social time for staff to bond, which means that you can hardly go home directly after work.
Of course, you may find it a bit difficult to get used to the new culture, yet, time and observation can help. Don’t worry!