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Building Relationships While Integrating Oneself into a New Culture

Cultural Differences

21 June, 2021

Vishal Verma, Engineering Manager at Netflix, can attest to how challenging it can be to join a company far from where you were born.

Problem

Coming from a different culture and becoming comfortable with the nuances of the language and the way of being that everybody already subscribes to is incredibly difficult, no matter where you happen to be coming from and where you happen to be going.

There is a tendency to be impatient with the process: I want to acquire the skills necessary and to just get there professionally and to be done with it. This is not a realistic expectation; the physics of the brain, the way that human beings function, it takes time to find success and camaraderie with people who are different from us in the workplace.

Actions taken

Do not be too harsh on yourself as you meet these challenges in your career. Give yourself the patience and the time that you would give another person in your situation. Couple this forgiveness with an active engagement with the work at hand. Explore every avenue that may bring you insight into the divide. The classic tactic is to watch as many American movies as you can in order to gain an understanding of the language and the culture. You’re able to be an active listener, absorbing everything that you can about the country and its ways of thinking.

On the technical side of things, this transition was much easier. I studied in English and was able to communicate my ideas at work effectively. Where I had the most room to grow was in relationship-building — the banter, casual stuff. A lot of times, you find yourself not even latching on to what’s being said. It just goes so fast from the perspective of an outsider.

Lessons learned

  • Take it slowly when you can. Participate in low-barrier social activities whenever possible. A group outing provides an opportunity to build relationships passively, gradually becoming more and more active as you get to know your peers on a more personal level.
  • Bolstering one’s confidence can be challenging. It’s easy to feel as though you’re not ready to put yourself out there. There is no perfect moment; you have to make the effort early on. An uncomfortable situation is a great opportunity to begin.
  • Starting small and slowing amping up your efforts will lead to friendships that you never would have been able to enjoy otherwise.

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