Since my return to Helsinki in early March, I have been reflecting on my cross-cultural experience of living and working in Hamburg, Germany.
Over the course of six months, from September to March, I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a new culture and work environment, which not only challenged me but also expanded my professional skills and knowledge in ways I never expected.
Working in a cross-border and cross-cultural setting opened doors to new opportunities and expanded my professional network. I gained access to more in-depth information and had the chance to witness first-hand how our office in a different country operates. This experience has given me a better understanding of how our teams collaborate across different locations. Having visited all of our offices in Helsinki, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, and Stockholm, I now have a holistic view of our operations and a deeper appreciation for the diverse approaches to work.
Adapting And Flexibility Are Key
Adapting to a new culture and work environment can be daunting, but one experience stands out as instrumental in helping me navigate this transition – the shared apartment. Living together with German roommates in a vibrant city was an incredible opportunity to explore the local culture and form lasting connections. In our apartment, there were five of us – all young professionals who had recently moved to Hamburg for work.
The dynamic environment, with a constantly changing roster of residents, required a willingness to embrace change and adapt. It taught me valuable lessons in flexibility and the importance of forging meaningful connections.
Important Support Systems
Another significant source of support during my time in Hamburg was my colleagues at Nordic Minds. They went out of their way to ensure that I felt comfortable in the new city and provided me with valuable tips and guidance throughout my stay. Their support and camaraderie created a sense of belonging that helped me integrate quickly into the work environment and the local community.
Of course, no journey abroad is without its share of unexpected difficulties and obstacles. Initially, dealing with administrative documents was a headache. However, with the support of my colleagues, what could have been a disaster turned into a manageable situation.
The connections I made in Hamburg, both at work and in my shared living space, were a constant source of assistance whenever problems arose. Together, we formed a close-knit community that supported and uplifted one another.
This experience has significantly influenced my perspective on global business and cross-cultural work. It also highlighted the subtle differences in working styles between Germany and Finland. While both countries have their unique approaches – in Finland, for example, we emphasize work-life balance a bit more – I discovered that we share the goal of striving for efficiency. Recognizing this has allowed me to appreciate the strengths of both cultures and find common ground in pursuit of our shared goals.
On a personal level, this experience has taught me a great deal about myself. It encouraged me to open up more and emphasized the importance of communication, both in my professional and personal life. Being independent and navigating life abroad on my own forced me out of my comfort zone. I gained a deep understanding of the nuances between German and Finnish cultures and learned how to adapt and interact with people from both backgrounds.
Thinking About Working Abroad? Do it!
For young professionals considering working abroad, I wholeheartedly recommend taking the leap. Working in a different country provides a unique opportunity to learn about others’ lives and perspectives. It broadens your horizons and opens doors to personal growth.
To those considering their first international work experience, here are a few words of advice: Be open to new experiences and actively seek connections with others. The people you meet along the way will be your greatest support system. Embrace the challenges that come with stepping outside your comfort zone, as it’s in those moments that you learn the most valuable lessons.
What I Have Learned
When I think back on my favorite things about Hamburg, it's hard to choose just one. Workwise, the sense of camaraderie during team lunches, and events, and simply being together in the office created lasting memories. On a personal level, exploring the city with friends, immersing myself in the German culture, and the unique experience of traveling by train (a departure from Finland's reliance on flights or boats) all hold a special place in my heart. I loved every moment of those six months!
My time in Hamburg was a truly transformative experience both personally and professionally. I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived and worked in another country. The opportunity to work abroad has broadened my horizons, deepened my cultural understanding, and equipped me with valuable skills and insights, all of which I brought back with me to Helsinki.
The most important lesson I took away from this experience is my desire to continue working abroad – and who knows? Perhaps I will even return to Hamburg one day.
If you are interested, you can read here how she prepared for her time in Hamburg – or get directly in touch with Lotta – don't hesitate to send her an e-mail if you have any questions.