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In the first of 13 fascinating interviews with Dual MBA and MSc students, we speak to Niranya Nawinworanakor about her career challenges. Niranya shares how she adapted to a new culture and professional environment whilst working for a Japanese logistics business.

Prior to starting her Dual MBA and MSc in International Hospitality Business, Niranya was working in a multicultural environment. “Before I came here, I worked in Bangkok for a Japanese logistics company.”

“The staff in my team were mostly Thai, but we had to work with a few Japanese members of staff like my boss, a few colleagues, sometimes even the trainees. We targeted the Thai market, but most of our customers were Japanese companies based in Thailand.”

The culture challenge

It’s the job of a hospitality professional to accommodate the cultural differences, a skill that Niranya was developing through challenges in her logistics role.

“I come from Thailand, so the problem that I was facing working for a Japanese company is mainly about the culture, because Japanese working style and Thai working style are totally different.

“For example, Thai people are always trying to make compromises. So if a customer sends a deadline, even though we cannot finish the job by the deadline, we always try to informally discuss with the customer and try to find a compromising solution. However, Japanese are always very formal.”

Customs and courtesies

Working within a Japanese company presented very unique cultural customs that Niranya had to understand and embody. “When you go to a customer’s office or the customer comes to your office, you have to stand the whole time until the customer sits down”, Niranya commented.

“If you sit down before the customer, you will be perceived as very rude. When it first happened, I went to a meeting with my boss and sat down, and my boss started panicking and saying ‘no, no, no get up, get up, you have to wait and stand when the customer comes in!’”

Learning a new way of working

Niranya embraced the opportunity to learn a new culture and deliver a professional, considerate service to clients. “My main challenge was: how can I learn the Japanese way of working?

“After work, when I met my boss, he would tell me ‘Niranyasan (they add san after the first name to say Ms Niranya) you have to learn so many things! You have to learn about this culture, and you need to know the process.’”

‘We would always say that if you want anything done, go to karaoke.’

“Even though my boss was very serious at work, out of work it was easier to ask questions. The thing is that, in Japanese culture, two worlds are completely separated: they are very serious and following strictly the rules at work, but after work they are very open-minded and want to hang-out with you and discuss anything.”

“The afterwork time is very important for Japanese people. We would always say that if you want anything done, go to karaoke or another game with the customer and let them win.

Learning from those around you

Whether you’re working in a hotel, restaurant or airline, the key to success in hospitality is being a team and learning from your colleagues. For Niranya, this was something she was practicing in her previous industry to overcome her greatest challenge.

“Mostly my method to overcome this challenge was:

  • Observing: Observe my boss and see how he is behaving and try to copy the same behaviour
  • Asking for help: And then ask him to explain me when we are in a more informal situation. Japanese like to help, so just ask them.”

“I worked four years in this company, but after 1-2 years I already managed to work through this challenge and learn how to work effectively with Japanese teams.”

Looking back and moving forward

An important part of knowing where you are going is understanding where you came from, and the wisdom you have gained. For Niranya, her time in the Japanese logistics company was a great life lesson, and one that made the multicultural campus at Glion feel like home.

“Today I look at that time from a fun perspective and I share examples with my classmate Toshi who is from Japan. He also worked in a conservative company, so he understands what I had to learn during my previous working experience.”

“After this, getting used to the multicultural environment and studying in Switzerland with people from all around the world was very easy.”

Thank you to Niranya for taking the time to talk to us about her life and career before starting her Dual MBA and MSc in International Hospitality Business. Be sure to check back soon for the second interview in this series, with Itzel Gracian Oritz.

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About the author

Glion Institute of Higher Education
Glion Institute of Higher Education is a private Swiss institution offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in hospitality, luxury and event management to an international student body across three campuses in Switzerland and London, UK.
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