Working in emerging markets - a challenge?

By Jonas Biner


Would you like to gain new experience, and go to work in an emerging market? It's a great way to gain valuable new experience and gain new insights into foreign cultures. However, there may certainly be some challenges that need to be considered. Cultural differences and language barriers, for example, can make working together difficult. These need to be overcome to generate a fulfilling new experience. 


Working in emerging markets can be very exciting and challenging at the same time. The opportunity to work in a completely new environment can be very invigorating, but it can also bring many potential obstacles. This blog post focuses on potential problems that could arise, due to racism, cultural differences, language barriers, as well as people's different backgrounds, and what can be done to successfully overcome these hurdles. 



Racism can occur in almost any environment imaginable, but special consideration should be given to it when working in emerging markets, where differences in cultural backgrounds are particularly pronounced. Potentially existing prejudices should be dismantled to enable goal-oriented cooperation and reduce potential contact fears. An unprejudiced and open cooperation of all persons brings much more than the separation into smaller groups acting separately from each other. 


To meet this challenge, it is important to be aware of cultural differences in advance and to interact with sensitivity and respect. Leaders in particular should set a good example and adopt a tone of openness and respect. This can create an open environment in which individual team members feel comfortable and can contribute as profitably as possible.


Cultural differences:

The cultural differences inherent in international collaboration, as is often the case in emerging markets, can also become a hurdle. For example, in some cultures, it is considered appropriate to make personal remarks about a person's appearance or ethnicity, while in other cultures this is extremely frowned upon. This can lead to arguments that were completely unintentional and therefore could have been avoided. 

Individual etiquettes towards business meetings, for example, can also be fundamentally different. In some cultures, they tend to be held more formally, while in others a very casual approach is preferred. A big discrepancy can arise even in very basic things, such as the schedule. For example, the "European schedule" of 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. is hardly applicable in some other countries due to climate. In addition, there can be many different expectations about the different ways of communication, how decisions are made, and work-life balance that need to be addressed. 



Openness and willingness to compromise are key ingredients to enable fruitful collaboration. Research should be done and information, recessions, and advice sought to be prepared for the new situation and environment. In addition, it can be helpful to have a heterogeneous team that includes people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, all striving to find a common path.


Language barriers:

One of the most important but also one of the most well-known challenges is the language barrier. Even though English is widely spoken, there are still people who do not know this language or speak dialects that are difficult for others to understand. In addition, differences in communication style and vocabulary can lead to misunderstandings. All of this can get in the way of building a good working relationship. 

To overcome language barriers, it makes sense to invest in language courses and actively work to improve communication. Hiring regionally familiar interpreters can also help to overcome the language barriers and possibly also contribute to the reduction of fear of contact. 



Working in emerging markets is an enriching experience that goes far beyond the professional setting. Valuable professional, as well as personal insights, can be gained. However, it is of great importance to be aware of the potential challenges. Various factors such as racism, cultural differences, or language barriers can make cooperation difficult. It is important to face these challenges. An environment of inclusion and respect, in which everyone can feel comfortable, creates a good basis to enable profitable collaboration. Only by fully utilizing the strengths of each team member can we get the best possible out of the team. Each team member contributes to this environment, all can contribute something to the success and good cooperation of the team.