Variety is the Spice of Life: Benefits of Having International Colleagues


“Diversity” seemed to be the buzz word at some point in time, especially in the work-place. Some took it very well, while some others less so. Having colleagues from other cultures mean you can pick up one or two useful traits from them. Though that being said, it doesn’t mean a diversified workplace is without problems.

International Colleagues
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Regardless of diversity being prevalent or not, there are some advantages and disadvantages to having international colleagues. Here are some things you can pick up from your fellow international colleagues while working in an office with international cultures.

Being Vocal

international colleagues
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Though some cultures see being reserved as normal and positive, some others may not agree. A common view shared by many is that foreigners tend to be more vocal compared to some country’s locals. This has its own advantages.


Claudine, a staff working for a Swiss bank in Singapore, says to Her World, It’s easier to understand some of my foreign colleagues because they say what is on their minds. Even if our discussions get heated, problems get resolved faster as they will openly state their case and rationale, and propose constructive alternatives. In contrast, some of my Singaporean co-workers will nod and agree with me when we are face to face, then complain and grumble later.


Though it may be seen as a generalisation to associate this to cultural difference, country manager Anthony Ung feels there is some truth to it. He believes certain Asian nations tend to have a ‘the boss is always right’ attitude and prefer not to question their superiors.


Being outspoken does not mean your foreign colleague has the upper hand or is right when presenting a proposal or trying to attract and close clients. Adecco Singapore’s management consultant Ian Grundy argues, “The ability to follow through and deliver what you have promised is more important than eloquence.”

Creativity From Discussions

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In some cultures, some people may think all that extra talk wastes precious time. A benefit of having more discussions is it sometimes leads the team off the path, which creates new ideas. Bernadette Ang, channels manager for a fast-moving consumer goods company, says, “This creativity can be harnessed by having separate meetings for those who enjoy these discussions, so that they come to the larger project meetings, where it’s more about processes and addressing issues, with feasible ideas instead of doing the brainstorming then.”


The days where bosses just want quiet employees who follows every orders are gone. Current year bosses want staffs who are able to think for themselves and can bring something to the table. Final decisions are still largely in the bosses’ hands, but new ideas are always welcome.

Seeing the Bigger Picture


We can learn to see the bigger picture to not just the issues we faced every day, but also just about everything else. Some cultures (in general, though not all) tend to be more task-oriented and focused on operational details. Your foreign colleagues are thought to be more visionary and think of the future directions of the company.

Seeing the Bigger Picture
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Lisa, a human resource consultant and trainer at an employee management international firm, says, My boss, who is a foreigner, is very hands-off and gives us the ownership to do things; he appraises us on our outcomes. There is a general climate of trust and many like that sense of ownership.


This trait is more related to the employee’s personality than his nationality or background. There are bound to be employees who are more comfortable with guidance, whereas there are staffs who are wholly independent and can have no qualms starting right off.

Resilient, Tough as Nails

Tough as Nails
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Your foreign, international colleagues tend to have higher sense of resilience. And for a good reason too. They have a higher degree of perseverance because they come from a tougher environments. They work hard, and hardly give up easily. At the same time, they are more often prone to dealing with issues objectively and are less likely to take things personally.


When you are to give them suggestions and feedback on how to improve on their work, they are keen to find out. They are keen to find out why and what the problems are so they can do their job better.


This is possible because many international employees do not view their current work country as a permanent resting ground. This affects their thinking and approach towards work. Most of them will return to their home countries or to a new country. They feel they don’t have that much to lose as their local colleagues.


It is quite likely they are willing to take risks to maximise the opportunities they have in their current work country. Consequently, they tend to respond more positively to feedback. At the same time, they don’t take it personally and see it as a way to improve themselves.

Socialites & Social Butterflies

Social Butterflies
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Some people find their international colleagues more sociable and more likely to treat their co-workers as friends instead of just colleagues. On the other hand, some local staffs may find their local colleagues to maintain a professional distance in the office.


It is believed that many foreign employees may have relocated to their new countries on their own. Subsequently, they are freer to socialise outside of work. Local employees or colleagues, conversely, go home to their families by the end of the day. It is said that locals tend to slightly more likely to have their own cliques. International staffs allegedly tend to have less of these and be more inclusive.

Work-Life Balance

Work life balance
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Your international colleagues are probably better at achieving work-life balance than your local colleagues. Staying in the office till late is normal but it’s just counter-productive. At times you become so tired you lose concentration and simply does not benefit on efficiency.


Coming from stating that international colleagues are more likely to be social butterflies, it is no surprise international colleagues are less prone to being burnt out at work. They are more likely to manage to complete their work during working hours and leave as soon as its time to go.


It may be simply due to the fact that sometimes locals may have gotten their priorities wrong. Even if it isn’t, they do not know how to properly manage their tasks accordingly. More effort and discipline are needed to make sure you have a work-life balance. It does not happen like that, just that you have to work at it.




Learn a thing or two about your foreign colleagues. Mingle around them, and ask them a few questions. You may find a couple of useful traits you can incorporate into your everyday life. It can come across as useful some days.


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