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Things You Have to do Differently as a Foreigner

When the Same Rules Don’t Apply

The post was originally published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/when-same-rules-dont-apply-bharat-chaudhary/

More tuition fees for foreign students, hurdles in starting their own companies or freelancing businesses while studying and inability to open a few bank accounts, stock depots (N26/TradeRepublic) are just one of the many places where the laws apply differently to foreigners than they apply to the natives.

When you move to a different country, you do that completely on your own volition. Nobody forces you to do it. Just because you have a fascination for its culture or the opportunities that the other country has, you decide to make that move.

No matter if it’s an Indian moving to Germany or a German moving to India, a foreigner in a different country, you always have to play by a different set of rules. Not just the ones mentioned in the laws, but also academically, socially, and professionally so that they can see some level of success for themselves.

When I think back about the time when I moved to Germany, I can’t help but think about the naive beliefs I had about how success functions here. Things, fortunately, worked out for me with several different projects with the German government and working with different businesses, but there was a lot of learning in the process that I am sharing down below so that you understand what kind of things you need to differentiate in order to have a better shot at success in Germany:

Germany's Economic Backbone: Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (Source: gtai.de)

German language proficiency:

This is the part where I already see a bunch of people talking nonsense about how they found a job at BMW, Mercedes, Bosch, Siemens with just English and no German proficiency. To them, I say, “Good for you!”.

Don’t make the sheer blunder of generalizing it for an economy where 3.45 million businesses are just small and medium enterprises. Any kind of correspondence (especially in the Mechanical and Civil Engineering fields) with the public authorities happen in German, major clients are German and other businesses that you work with are more comfortable in German because their entire studies, working systems support their own language. Because of same they have a natural affinity for people who are proficient in it.

“You’ll do just fine with English” is an absolute garbage advice anybody living in Germany can give you. Learn German. And no. A1/A2 will do nothing for you. Don’t even mention it, because when you start going to a meeting where the stakes are high and higher-level executives are involved, it doesn’t matter what German level you are at. You need to be able to fluently interact with them, speak to them and have a comfortable meeting with them so that you get that deal, job, or negotiation that you have been trying for. This can’t be done below a very strong C1 or C2. That’s why invest in learning German, any day of the week and anybody who tells you otherwise, they will see a plateau in their own career really soon.

Playing the Numbers Game

Not every single person you will come across is going to be helpful or will be of much use to you for the aims you have for yourself. This is why it is very important to quickly identify the people who wish you well and give you their outside perspective when you are in a dilemma of choosing between two meaningful things. Being able to come in contact with a colleague or batchmate who is German can be a massive addition to your network. Be consistent, observe how things are working out for a few weeks, and if you don’t see a purpose in building that connection, move on. And trust me, when you find the people who are willing to help you when you genuinely need help and show that you already tried at your end, you will identify them quickly. I have come across a few German colleagues like that in my time here. Keyword: few. If you think everybody has the same degree of willingness to support you, think again.

Count Your Favors

The number of favors you can get from somebody is always limited. Remember this and count the times you are asking somebody for something. Self-independence is really strong in the German culture and unless you are great friends with the person you are asking help from, keep making a tally of the times you ask for something. The way to move past this is to actually invest in buildinga solid long term relationship with them by meeting up, helping out in their projects and showing up regularly (no need to ring the bell every single day! Just be regular)

Don’t be afraid to ask for Mentorship

Back in late 2019, I asked one of my professors if he can mentor me on how he approaches the discussion in intercultural settings. I wanted to learn it for my YouTube channel. Keyword: “Discussions in Intercultural Settings”. You can’t go up to somebody and ask them to mentor you because the first question they will ask is with what? We caught up a few times, I would ask my questions, he would share his stories and towards the end, he invited me to a talk he was going in a mixed set of audience and seeing everything I heard from him in practice changed things for me.

Sometimes there is fee for mentorship programs, but as long as you admire the place at which the other person is and you see value in getting to that place, you shouldn’t shy away from it either. Anything that you invest to build your intellect and soft skills will pay a hundred times over. I have invested multiple times with different mentors and not once I have regretted it.

You can’t just be an employee anymore

Times have changed. It is 2020 and the presence of digital media and the need for personal branding never have been stronger. Whereas some people flood their LinkedIn feeds with nonsense shows of certifications that they have done, others implement what they have learned from their certifications and create “art” with their opinions or software they just learned.

What is everybody looking for these days is a personality.

A person with opinions and ideas.

Nobody needs a human-machine who can do the same set of tasks and nobody wants to pay for that human-machine when you can automate the process in a few clicks. Invest in building your personal brand and do it with ingenuity. Nobody is looking for “just an employee” these days, especially in positions which are higher up the professional hierarchy. You’ll thank me later.

Build your worth and then Know worth

For most of the foreigners moving to a different country, this is how the success graph can easily look like, if they are ambitious and smart:

No alt text provided for this image

In many countries, we have already started seeing that. In USA, UK, Canada there are a lot of Indians in higher executive positions but the same is missing so far in Germany which you can attribute to the language barriers and the popular belief that you don’t need German to perform well in Germany. You as a foreigner, of course, are entering the country late but you are entering with a lot more momentum, skills, knowledge, and experience. So, if you make the right moves and have the courage to make the best out of the opportunities from this new country, Indians can set a completely different precedent and image in this economic hub of Europe.

But for that, we have to unlearn a lot of things that people with lesser observation skills or intellect have been spreading around and we have to forget the mental boundaries that these popular but stupid beliefs set for us.

Find your mentors, start listening to the right people, and block the ones whose opinions and ideas you don’t see beneficial for the vision you have planned for yourself.

And you will have the kind of success that nobody before you has ever had in this country.

Bharat

P.S.

The Complete Course for Finding Jobs in Germany is coming out soon on BiG Academy. If you would like to already start preparing for it, start with building a solid CV. You can find the free downloadable format here: https://bharatingermany.com/german-cv-format/

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