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Hi guys, I have been living abroad for the last couple of years, and I’d say I am well integrated, I am now bilingual but sometimes I struggle with the cultural differences at work. I am the only foreigner at my work and sometimes feel out of place. I have been told several times I am a little cold, probably because I don’t like discussing my private life at work.


Is anyone out there going through the same thing? How do you guys deal with the different work culture?



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Hi kim. I'm not sure what country you live in, but I share a similar situation - I moved to the Netherlands from the USA back in 2015 and had to work hard to establish a career here in spite of the language and cultural barriers. I'm now married with a baby and working at Manager level at a small company filled with expats. So maybe I can help shed some light.


I used to work in an office filled with Dutch people, and I'll admit that it was a tricky integration for me as an American and I longed for an environment with more expats. This was because it's lonely enough to be an expat in a new country, and I started to feel isolated even though I enjoyed my Dutch colleagues very much. Even speaking the language isn't the same as the relief of being able to speak the SAME LANGUAGE (actual words, but also idioms of the language and same cultural understanding as well).


What you're talking about, however, (not wanting to discuss private life at work) - that's not a cultural difference. That is something I imagine you would hold to regardless of where you work, correct? If that's really an issue for your colleagues, I would say to just let it go and keep doing you. You certainly do not need to share details of your private life at work, if that's not what you want to do. As long as you are doing well at work and doing your best to be friendly and communicative with your colleagues, you're doing well.


I'm guessing your main issue is just feeling isolated/ out of place. This might have to do with being a foreigner, but it could also be that this isn't the right work environment for you. Have you reached out to expat networks where you are? I have to believe there must be others who have relocated to your current city just as you have with whom you could speak. Maybe there's an office (such as what I found) where there is a bigger expat number and you can feel a little more at home and able to thrive.

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Hi leseine, I moved from Eastern Europe to Western Europe. The thing is I don’t feel lonely outside work anymore, I have many close friends, had several boyfriends, and a pretty busy social life. It just hits me at work sometimes, I feel like as if I were invisible, I get along with two coworkers from the sales team and my manager, but the rest of the team likes to gossip and they ask me invasive questions (invasive from my point of view). Once they realized I don’t like discussing private life at work, they basically stopped talking to me. I tried to join them for an afternoon coffee (it’s a thing over here) a few times, but they just talked among themselves and I felt left out. Most of my coworkers are heavy smokers and take regular cigarette breaks, and I don’t smoke, so I’m left out again.

My expat friends work in international environments, in a friendlier atmosphere I guess. I am grateful for my job and I actually like what I do, I just feel lonely at work (sometimes). Thank you for your comment, I obviously needed to vent today.

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I think you can still be friendly or make an effort without talking about your personal life in specifics (be choosy in what you say and not give out too many details). Most people don't care for that anyway; they just remember the gist of what you're saying. Have your coworkers picked on you in any way or singled you out?


You are also not there to socialize. It sounds like you're also bored (you mentioned being integrated and achieving bilingualism). If you moved for work, you are likely doing it for reasons related to your economic situation or for your career/professionally. It's ok to feel lonely and like you don't completely fit in. Don't get complacent and stay professional. Think long term if you can and start working on your next steps.

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I find cultural differences and how they impact us on a social level to be so fascinating.


You said you moved from Eastern Europe to the West and that you are viewed as cold, too private.


I am first generation American, my dad was born and raised in Lithuania.


Like you, when I worked at large corps, I was often viewed as cold, standoffish, too private, hard to get to know, I have even been called a snob! In school, it was the same.


It's my nature, in part based on my culture, my upbringing, my personality -- my dad was same (he's passed).


But once people get to know me one on one, they soon discover I am actually the exact opposite of those things! I mean like total opposite.


Anyway, this used to bother me but now it doesn't. I'm me and I accept me. Others will too once they get to know me.


Same for you, try not to allow what others think effect you so much.


Once you accept yourself, others will find it easier to accept you too!


I have also chosen to work for smaller firms, where the environment is more like a family, warmer. My nature being what it is, I find that type of environment more suited for me.


Could that be an option for you too? These larger corps can be so cut throat, backstabbing, gossipy.


Something to consider?

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Hi Katrina, thank you for your comment, I guess I need to work on myself so it doesn’t bother me that much. I’m usually pretty okay at work, I had a really bad day when I wrote this post, I just needed to vent lol. There’s a huge cultural difference for sure, but I’m definitely not bored, as someone mentioned, I do like my job.

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