12. April 2021
Since 2011 I've been working for TGW. In May 2018 I relocated with my wife and 2-year-old from TGW Mechanics in Wels, Austria to Michigan, USA.
It all started with a business trip to Michigan, where I became acquainted with Midwestern friendliness. Soon after this, a look-and-see-trip was organised and my wife and I decided that we would like Michigan to be our home for a couple of years. Moving to a different country, especially to a different continent, requires a lot of paperwork and organisation. But the Austrian and American HR team made sure that everything went smoothly and basically all we had to do was pack up all our belongings and board the plane.
TGW’s Expatriation Programme has always been something in which I wanted to participate. It’s interesting to observe how a company, which has grown out of its local environment, operates on a global level. The Expatriation Programme offers the opportunity to work directly with people from different backgrounds, cultures and languages. This definitely contributes to the company’s success, as there are many opportunities to learn from each other and to grow personally.
One thing I really appreciate about our Solutions Engineering team is that we are made up of individuals of very diverse backgrounds. Instead of causing any problems, rather the contrary is the case: the diversity benefits our work. Different minds are able to view a problem from different angles and collectively work toward the solution. This can only be achieved if the individuals are open minded and able to step back and see the situation from another point of view – one key factor of the TGW values.
Another thing I value within our team is that everyone is quick to assume responsibility for individual tasks within a project. The tasks for a project are arranged and highlighted very clearly. This allows everyone in the team to take over areas where they can contribute the most. The knowledge and experience of the entire team is brought into every project, resulting in a high quality solution.
In my opinion, this international aspect is a key part of why we are successfully mastering large projects with many new challenges, and why everyone participates with such enthusiasm.
Living in the US, one thing that is absolutely worth mentioning is America’s rich natural heritage. Lake Michigan is simply stunning. It always amazes me how much it feels like an ocean, with its massive waves and dangerous currents. Domestic flights are a great way to explore the country; especially in winter, a three-hour flight can bring you from freezing Michigan to the tropical Florida Keys.
While we do miss the characteristic old towns of Europe, America’s National Parks definitely compensate with landscapes which are absolutely breath-taking and unique in the entire world. So far, we have been able to explore California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Michigan of course.
GETTING USED TO THE NEW LANGUAGE As a native Austrian, speaking English with the locals sometimes resulted in funny misunderstandings. Once a family we had befriended was speaking about going to an “Open House” later in the afternoon. We were surprised because we didn’t know that they were thinking about selling their house or buying a new house. The term “Open House” is also used for a graduation party or baby shower where many people are invited. So, there are still a lot of learning opportunities.
GETTING USED TO THE NEW CULTURE
The American culture is quite different to the European one. The history of immigration has shaped the attitude and behaviour of people in the US.
AMERICANS' SMALL TALK SKILLS
Europeans sometimes mistake this valuable skill for being superficial (“Does the cashier really want to know how my day was?”). There is far more to it, however. Small talk provides a nice and positive environment. In general, there is an optimistic atmosphere where people are open and take interest.
It may sound very simple but I learned that there is no such thing as a “wrong” or “right” culture. You can live your whole life in your bubble, but you would definitely miss out on wonderful opportunities to learn from others and to grow personally. This is something the American openness has taught me. So, my recommendation to others is to be open and to go on an exchange program, if you have the chance. You will not regret this step. Because great things happen outside of your comfort zone.