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      Minasan, Konnichiwa! My International Assignment in Japan
      February 02, 2017

      Minasan, Konnichiwa! My International Assignment in Japan

      In December, I shared with you my enjoyable experience at a Japanese Year-end Party at Continental. As my assignment here in Japan is almost coming to an end, I would like to share with you my experiences of living and working in Japan.

      My work experience at Continental Japan

      My graduate program at Continental began in the Chassis and Safety Headquarters in Frankfurt, in 2015. In August 2016, I came to Japan for my international assignment within my graduate program.

      Before arriving in Japan, I was quite nervous about how everything would be, since I would be living and working in a completely different world compared to Germany and Continental Frankfurt. I don’t speak Japanese (OK, well, now I’ve learned a few words and sentences, but it really took me awhile :)) and Continental Japan in Yokohama is quite a unique location compared to other Continental locations. It is a completely diverse working environment, hosting all five Continental Divisions and more than 20 Business Units. Furthermore, there are almost 30 different nationalities within Continental Japan at the moment.

      That’s also the reason why the HR team in Japan asked me to support several Diversity & Inclusion initiatives at our location which is a great opportunity for collaboration. The local HR team and I are currently organizing events such as the Language Lunch, Culture Days, and our new initiative: Women@Work, which will kick-off at the end of January this year. One particular successful event was our German Culture Day, whereby more than 100 employees showed high interest in the German culture, food and the country itself.

      I have enjoyed working in these diverse teams with people from all over the world and to foster, at least a little bit, an inclusive culture at Continental, by understanding and experiencing different cultures.

      What I also learned during my assignment in Japan is how to build a bridge from Corporate in Germany to the country level, in this case Japan. I received the opportunity to work closely with colleagues from Corporate HR in Hanover, and then to bring their ideas to the country level. I learned a lot through this, during roll-outs of programs initiated by Corporate. As in many cases, communication is the key and I believe this experience also helped me to further develop my communication skills, and to open up my understanding for global business.

      Another example to underline my valuable experience here is a project which I was already involved in when I first started my graduate program in Frankfurt. I was first assigned to this topic for my “global project” during the kick-off of my graduate program. Therefore, I had already started working on this topic with my Graduate team from September 2015 in my first assignment, in this case lead by Corporate HR in Hanover. I continued working on this topic during my second assignment by supporting my host Business Unit in preparation for the global roll-out locally. Finally, I was assigned to this same topic on a country level here in Japan (they conducted a pilot run in Japan). Overall, it was a unique experience to be a part of a project right from the beginning when it had been developed on a corporate level, right down to the break-down in a business unit and finally, to support the roll-out in a country. So to say, I had the opportunity to get a “three-level-perspective” with this project (Corporate/BU/Country).

      Living in Japan

      Other than my experiences of working in Japan, I also wanted to get to know the country, the people and the culture. During my weekends I tried to travel as much as I could. My final conclusion is: I love this country! I love to be out in nature, admiring the beautiful Japanese landscape and its fantastic and overwhelmingly different sceneries. Before I came to Japan, I could not really understand why everybody was freaking out over the “holy Fuji-san”, but nowadays, I am the first one running to the office windows when the weather is fine, where we have the possibility to see “Fuji-san” from our office. From the mountains to the sea, from fantastic old temples and shrines to amazing huge cities, this country is definitely worth travelling around. For sure, I also enjoyed the Japanese kitchen a lot: I probably ate the best Sushi in the world  and I got to try several dishes I would never have had the chance to try anywhere else.

      The people around me were always very welcoming towards me, and despite some language difficulties, I learned for myself how polite Japanese people are. If you are ever trying to find your way through the “public transportation jungle” in Tokyo, be prepared to experience Japanese people approaching you, trying to help you, and even escorting you to the station you are looking for, even without any English skills!

      To sum it up, living and working in Japan has been a great experience and opportunity for me to learn and develop a lot! I would like to thank all the people I had the chance to work with and especially the great and always welcoming HR Team in Japan!

      Arigatou gozaimasu!

      You are interested in becoming part of the HR graduate program? Find more information here.


      This article was written by our employee.

      Marie Winterling