Working abroad, part 1 – the Brit abroad

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Working abroad - Fram Search articles

Coming soon:
Part 2 – the ex pat in England
Part 3 – our advice to employers with ex-pats and to those considering a move abroad

Financial Services is a very international community and is an example of the benefits of a diverse workforce in action. However, we rarely interview many British candidates who have worked abroad. Current estimates suggest only 900,000 British citizens are living in other EU countries, whilst the UK hosts an estimated 3.15 million EU nationals. Whilst not a bad figure for a nation of 65 million, it highlights that us Brits aren’t perhaps the best travelled workforce. Maybe the reason is that our language skills aren’t good enough, or that there are enough opportunities here to stop us looking overseas.

Here at Fram we have staff who have gone in both directions, and in the first part of our ‘Working abroad’ blog posts, we asked Jack Doyle, who recently joined Fram, about his experiences of working in Germany.

“Many people ask me, where was I happiest – working in Munich, Germany, or working back home in the UK? It’s a really tough question to answer, as there are so many wonderful aspects of expat life in Germany, and likewise life at home, so for that reason I can’t give a definitive answer!

Although only a part of the working environment, one of the things people ask me about most is the German sense of humour, which is often misunderstood. Indeed, Spike Milligan famously stated that “the German sense of humour is no laughing matter”, but a sense of fun was always there – it just took some time to adapt to the local quirks. I quickly learned that humour changes (slightly) across the world, and so the early days were interesting and amusing as our German counterparts tested us Brits. From the first meeting I attended being conducted entirely in German, purely for the fun of it – my German wasn’t great yet, so being asked my opinion produced hilarious results – to sometimes not knowing if somebody was serious or joking, due to the dry nature of the German sense of humour. However, working with German colleagues was a great experience, and we had lots of fun. Whilst my colleagues used humour to make us feel welcome and bridge the culture gap, what it did teach me was that humour could easily provide pitfalls as well. For example, when British business people travel abroad, we need to understand that a joke we find hilarious during say a presentation may not quite translate, and so you really need to gauge your audience before launching into too much comedy.

Another stereotype of the German workforce is that they are extremely efficient, timetabled and punctual. This most certainly rings true, and working in this environment helped me prepare for my final year of undergraduate study at University. However, there were a number of small things that did present a challenge that often aren’t considered, such as having to adapt to the use of the German keyboard. As minor as this may sound, it took some time to switch from what I had assumed was a universal QWERTY keyboard system to this completely different way of working. After perseverance, I managed to crack it, but probably there were some typos along the way. There are other challenges too. Whilst some firms help with relocation, others don’t, and so who knew sourcing and finding accommodation in a foreign city, in a foreign language, would be so challenging (let me just say getting your head around a four-page tenancy agreement in German is no fun, when you don’t speak the language!). From food to comedy, adjusting to a new life abroad can be hugely rewarding but doesn’t come without challenges.

All in all work life in Germany was wonderful – lots of hard work and lots of Bavarian Bier that made up for our efforts.

Since returning from Munich in July 2016, I have now completed university with First Class Honours and have since secured a great graduate position with Fram working as a Research Consultant for the business. I have really enjoyed getting involved and becoming an important member of the close knit team. Although a slightly different work culture, I am enjoying working back in the UK, close to London, in a stimulating, demanding financial services-related market. I am appreciative and thankful for the international work experience gained on my sandwich year, and hope it will help in my new role working with international firms and candidates.”

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