Career Advice Career Doctor

Adapting to the progressive corporate culture in a foreign company


I recently joined a foreign company that needed a multilingual executive who was fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. I’ve worked with Westerners before in Hong Kong and the mainland. But, this is the first time most of my colleagues are Westerners.

Actually I’m quite fluent in English, but find it impossible keeping up with the typical office banter that my colleagues love to take part in. I often don’t understand the references they’re making, or completely miss the subtexts of what their words really mean. Honestly, I feel that such trivial social interactions are a waste of time. But, it is frustrating feeling left out.

It’s also my first time working for a Western boss, and the differences in the office culture and management styles are really quite different from the Chinese companies I’ve worked in before. He barely supervises me, preferring instead to set an overall objective and expecting me to achieve it however best I choose.

On one hand, it’s nice to have such freedom and authority to make my own decisions. But I do sometimes wonder if he’s just being lazy, and subsequently missing out on fully utilising my productivity. I miss the structure of having set guidelines and strong reporting lines.

Another frustration is barely getting any recognition for the overtime I put in at the office, especially when some of my colleagues take extended breaks together, occasionally choose to work from home, or even make frequent use of the company nap room! Have I joined an insane asylum?