I had a wonderful chat today with a colleague that works in the product development world. We were chatting about culture and how the US can be somewhat obstinate and bullish in approach to foreign markets in many ways. How we work with, within, and with whom in a foreign country should be a lesson in learning about the foreign culture, and less about how we tend to wish to impose our will on it. While we tend to have honest & good intentions, we can sometimes overstep our welcome and come to find frustration in the process. As a result, we may walk away angry at a culture that we could not change to our liking, therefore finding fault in the culture we sought to have assist us.
Case in point - China. I have now been moderately invested in working with Chinese factories for almost 20 years. Each factory has their apparent working model, but few are aligned with the western ideals we work within daily. Our standards, impressions, and intentions are different. Not wrong for either culture, just different. We tend to see things differently and therefore perform differently, and of course have different expectations overall.
The resounding theme here is 'different.' I repeat, that does not mean one or the other is wrong! It simply means that in order to work together in some display of harmony, we must learn to recognize, and respect, our differences. Experience allows us this luxury and wisdom, however, so many of us, including myself, begin the process attempting to force our will upon others and end up disappointed with the result. Ultimately, we have to look long and hard within ourselves to ask the tough questions - Did I truly research what to expect? Was I thoughtful and deliberate in my approach and preparation? Could (or will) I do more to make the experience better for both? How will I learn and manage the relationship to work for both parties?
Working in a foreign country can be taxing and difficult. It is a wonderful opportunity for personal and professional growth that should not be underestimated. There is tremendous value in successfully navigating the global market, and for most, a rewarding experience is often the end result, if you are willing to do the hard work and be patient with the process.