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Are you ready for a cultural challenge?

Category: Product Supply | 0 comments

こんにちは(Ko-n-ni-chi-wa)from Japan!

If you had asked me two years ago, then I would never have had imagined that I would be living and working in Japan. But here I am, four months of my second rotation have passed in the blink of an eye and it has been the biggest challenge for me in my professional career. Entering the graduate programme of Product Supply I knew that my second rotation would be at one of our production sites around the world. My great colleagues in the Product Supply programme are currently on rotation in the US, France, Iran and Denmark. Usually the second rotation in the Product Supply programme is at our sites in the US, France, Brazil, China and Denmark, but this year we have graduates in both Iran and Japan.

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A picture from a fishing trip with my colleagues

So how do you prepare for working abroad? What I did was that I started attending Japanese classes every Monday evening. I quickly discovered that Japanese would be a difficult language to learn, but more importantly, that the cultural differences between Denmark and Japan were bigger than I had anticipated (or least that was what the textbook said). This was further strengthened by the cultural awareness course that my colleagues and I attended before embarking on our second rotation journey. When comparing the two countries on different cultural dimensions you would usually find Denmark at one end and Japan on the far other end. With an increased cultural awareness and tools to tackle cultural differences I moved to Japan in May to begin my second rotation at Koriyama factory as the only foreign employee. Having worked here in Japan for four months now, I can confirm that some of these cultural differences exist. Exchanging business cards using both hands, bowing instead of shaking hands, swapping out the knife and fork with chopsticks and being addressed as Jacob-san are all natural to me now and part of my everyday life here in Japan. There have of course also been cultural challenges, which from time to time have been frustrating. Eventually you learn to tackle or accept these challenges either by changing your behaviour or by understanding the why. So have a changed the way I work? No. For me it has been important to be myself even more, exposing my Japanese colleagues to Danish culture at first hand on a day to day basis. In the end working with different cultures comes down to a matter of understanding and having respect for other people’s way of work. You might wonder; so how big is the cultural difference between Denmark and Japan? In my experience it is smaller than I expected. The global mind-set and values of Novo Nordisk are key reasons to why the cultural gap is smaller than that described in the textbooks. It is fantastic to see that the values that Novo Nordisk emphasizes in Denmark also are finding their way to a packaging site in the country site of Japan. To give a real life example, my good colleague had a single day off in three years (to go the interview at Novo Nordisk) before joining Novo Nordisk in Japan. Now he has just returned from two weeks of vacation. As I see it, it is not a Japanese packaging site in Novo Nordisk, but a Novo Nordisk packaging site in Japan. Living in Denmark I knew that I wanted to work for Novo Nordisk. Had I lived in Japan, Novo Nordisk would still be my first choice.

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So if you are looking for a unique cultural challenge at first hand, then the Product Supply Graduate Programme is a good place to start. Unfortunately the Product Supply Graduate Programme will not be open for applications next year, but fortunately for you there are a lot of other graduate programmes in Novo Nordisk that offers the same cultural experience.


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