Thinking of going travelling to experience different cultures? Why not relocate for work instead.
Erich Staeps, FLEETCOR’s Managing Director for Western Europe, moved from Mexico City to Nuremberg, Germany last December. He discusses his multi-cultural upbringing and experience of working in a different culture.
My multi cultural upbringing.
I was born in Hermosillo in Mexico but was raised in Mexico City by my Mexican Mother and German Father. My first language is Spanish, but I always used to speak German with my Dad at home. When I was 5 years old, my parents sent me to Germany to live with my aunt, ‘Tante Dodo’ (Auntie Dodo) for a year, to progress my German fluency whilst I was still young. I went to a ‘kindergarten’ – pre-school for ages 3 – 6 – and by the time I returned to Mexico, I’d almost forgotten how to speak Spanish! I studied at a German school in Mexico, where I also learnt how to speak English in 4th grade. As I was brought up speaking German by my Dad and through attending a German school, it’s very natural for me to think in German. My challenge now though, is to increase the amount of ‘business’ vocabulary I know, as I didn’t learn business terminology at home or school!
FLEETCOR Western Europe has businesses in 7 countries today; Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Belgium and France. My role, as Managing Director for Western Europe, has two responsibilities: developing our business with Shell in Europe even further by reselling the EuroShell fuel card in Western Europe and developing the business, where I look for new partners and potential products to introduce to the market.
“Throughout my career, I have worked in three fields; Technology (IT), Finance and Sales and Business. My role here at FLEETCOR combines all three of these fields and this works perfectly for me! My role within Europe also means I get the chance to practice my language skills, which is something I really enjoy”.
The key factors in making sure my team at FLEETCOR work effectively are communication and collaboration. This can be particularly challenging, as our staff are quite widespread across the continent in 4 locations, not to mention the language and cultural barriers! Therefore, focusing the team towards the same direction is essential.
Adapting to a new industry and a new culture can be hard; these types of changes require an open mind for new and different things. Since I’ve had a bi-cultural education, these types of changes have been quite normal for me. My personal career tactic has always been to gain experience in different fields. For example, after working as a banker I moved to SAP, a multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software, and became a banking consultant. Every step I’ve taken, I’ve put one foot in a field where I have experience (so in this case, banking) and put my other foot in a new field (technology).
Relocating for work.
I’d definitely recommend relocating for work, but if you have a family, I’d suggest relocating when your children are either very young or adults. Relocating when your children are teenagers will be difficult, as that’s when they’re starting to form their own identity. My daughter is 26 and has recently graduated whilst my son is 25 and is finishing his degree in restaurant and hotel management. They’re starting their own lives in Mexico, so the decision for me to move to Germany was a lot easier to think about, now that they’re independent.
I’ve learnt a few things from the cultural differences with working in Mexico and Europe. Compensation in Europe is higher than in Mexico; companies here are forced to put in place the highest productivity tools where as in Mexico output can be driven sometimes by hiring more FTE’s. When it comes to the market, the huge difference between Mexico and Europe is the deep cultural and language fragmentation throughout the different regions of the continent. People are very proud of their culture and communities; it’s essential to bear this in mind when doing business here, as this can sometimes pose as a challenge. During my role here in Nuremberg, I’ve had the chance to work with executives from a range of different backgrounds and nationalities, within and outside of FLEETCOR. We all have the same goal; to grow our business through excellence in our work.
“However, when you spend time outside of the office in a different country, you can appreciate the cultural differences even more as you can learn more about the culture you’re living in and try new things!”
Since moving, I want to start skiing and hiking, as it’s very popular over here. One of my favourite hobbies is motorcycling, so when winter is finally over, I can’t wait to go out on my bike! Although I’m missing my favourite Mexican dishes such as ‘Pescado a la Veracruzana’ (fish fillets braised with tomatoes, capers, olives and herbs), I really do enjoy German food. My favourite German meal has to be ‘Sauerbraten’. Its literal translation means pickled roast meat but essentially it’s a German Pot Roast.
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