For my executive experience abroad, my group visited both France and the United Kingdom. I found it to be very enriching to learn from these two different cultures and thought it was interesting to see the contrasting natures between their work approach and general lifestyle. Also, our program included visits to large corporations, small startups, and nonprofit organizations, which I thought provided good insight for the variety of operation styles needed to fit a particular company. One of the places we visited was the Paris Chamber of Commerce, which works to support the interests of businesses operating within the city of Paris and provides resources to them. In this blog, I will go into detail of what my expectations were before the visit, what I learned during their presentation of Brexit, and what thoughts I had after the visit, which I hope can give you another perspective about this executive experience.
Being that this was my first time in France, I was not sure what to expect with this presentation. Even with all the reading preparation I did about the French work culture, I was still nervous about the interactions that would take place between our approach and theirs. It sounds silly that I was fretting over a simple PowerPoint lesson, but there were so many thoughts running through my head about the things that could have gone wrong. For example, some questions that would occupy my mind beforehand were “what if they misunderstand a gesture from one of us and get offended?” or “what if we ask something that we deem as normal, but they think as inappropriate for a professional setting?”. I understand that first-time experiences like this will likely have many awkward moments in the beginning, but even with that awareness, I honestly just felt anxious because of the pressure to give off a good impression.
The lady who presented to us on Brexit works as a liaison for the Paris Chamber of Commerce in the city of Brussels, which is the economic capital of Belgium and a top financial center for Western Europe (WE). What I learned from her was that Brussels is where most of the monetary interests of WE are negotiated, which consequently leads to many regulators of the European Union (EU) being lobbied there as well. Another aspect I found intriguing was that the impacts of the United Kingdom (UK) leaving the EU would affect more than four million people who regularly travel between the island and the continent. The deadline for the UK to decide on an action moving forward has been extended multiple times and is set for the 31st of January, which causes many industry giants, particularly in France and Germany, to face a lot of uncertainty with matters regarding employment, trade, and much more.
After learning about the possible consequences that could happen from Brexit, I could not help but wonder about the logistics behind what this meant for the rest of the EU. All the other countries would have to adapt their society in drastic ways that have no predetermined structure, which not only could cause a lot of tension to build up, but also forces business leaders to change their strategy for the future. Moreover, the presenter gave us a proper analogy to this whole Brexit predicament: it is very much like a divorce that is being dragged out. Coming from America and reading our media’s coverage on this issue, I did not realize the magnitude of the repercussions that could occur and all the people that would be affected by this decision. At the time that I wrote this, the deadline for the UK is only days away, and I am definitely curious to see how this progresses forward for each country.
Overall, meeting and networking with professionals from another country was eye-opening because I got to engage and really get some first-hand experience about issues around the world. I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to study abroad in this program because although it is one thing to learn about theoretical business concepts in class, it is something completely different to be immersed in another culture and see the world through other peoples’ eyes. In other words, listening to locals on societal issues was very impactful since now I have more perspectives to apply to my academics and profession. Looking back at my initial nerves for this visit, I think it may have stemmed from the uncertainty that comes with experiencing a new country, which at the end of the day, is a necessary step towards intercultural communication.
Current Brexit Info
“The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020. A transition period is now in place until 31 December 2020. During this period the UK must comply with all EU rules and laws. Virtually nothing will change for businesses or for the public. There will be changes after the transition period, whether or not an agreement is reached on the new relationship between the UK and the EU.” To read more about Brexit check out the Government of the Netherlands website