There are SK People who open doors to newfound opportunities in foreign countries beyond national borders. SK People share with you their hard-earned business know-how from global worksites. In Episode 2, Manager Kim Jin-hyoung of Mercury PMI TF, SK global chemicals who worked in China shares his insights into the local culture and business tips with you.
My life as an expat worker began as follows…
I worked in China for four and a half years on a project to build an EPDM plant there. The project schedule was so tight that I had little time to get myself ready before leaving for China. As it is so different from region to region in China, it may be more efficient to adapt yourself off hand rather than preparing in advance. But I suggest that you learn some everyday Chinese phrases to better immerse yourself into the local culture.
New environments invite a broader perspective
I tried to teach what I knew as much as possible to local SK People to cotton up to them. That was probably why my Chinese colleagues began to call me ‘老师 (lǎoshī: a teacher)’. It was just a nickname, but I felt certainly encouraged me to study more for myself. I was also inspired to lead them by setting an example.
Furthermore, things that I had taken for granted often seemed strange when seen in a different environment. I mean something like the way of doing business. So, I began to question even minor details. ‘Should I really do it this way?’ ‘Is there any other alternative?’ ‘Is there even a better way?’ I was compelled to think again whether I had just followed suit without question. As I stepped forward actively, I tended to ask more and more questions. I found new answers as well and I realized how much more I could achieve just by asking.
Beware of these things, expat workers
At first, we are not likely to make mistakes as we tend to be cautious in whatever we do. Yet, mistakes begin to happen when we grow increasingly content, thinking, ‘I now know how things get done in this country.’ It starts from our self-conceit. It is good to localize consciously, but we must not forget that we still have a lot more to learn as a foreigner.
You need to take some time out to enjoy new experiences
China has plenty of tasty local cuisine including dishes like dim sum, huǒguō (Chinese-style shabu-shabu), kăoyā (duck marinated and grilled in Beijing style), guōbāoròu (Chinese-style sweet and sour pork), grilled lamb chop, and a wide assortment of fish and fruits. You need to take some time out to enjoy those new things as well. Make a friend or two with whom you can talk heart-to-heart over a cup of coffee or a meal. As a matter of fact, when you work overseas, it is not easy to make new friends other than your family members and business colleagues. I made friends in a Chinese language institute when I did not have a child, and in children’s playgrounds after my child was born. Chinese friends helped me overcome challenges and difficulties usually faced by foreigners and expat friends who were in the same shoes as me. They hanged around with me out of our mutual loneliness far from our homes.
Tips for SK People soon to be expat workers