Tokyo - A city of superlatives

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Katja Niesche is a Project Manager in Sales and Service Marketing. Last summer she packed her bags for three months and went to work at T-Systems in Tokyo as a direct entrant. In this interview the 23 year-old reports on how it happened and what she experienced in Japan.

What's your impression after three months in Japan: was it a culture shock or is life not really all that different from here?
Katja Niesche: It is really completely different and foreign - yet I settled very quickly into day-to-day work. Some differences do really stand out though. For example, in Japan no one would let on about feeling stressed. This is seen as extremely rude, just like all other vocal expressions of emotion. For the Japanese, politeness has priority over everything. For example they never say "no." So at work I had to learn what a "yes" in response to my query really meant: "I'll get it done", "I'll do it later" or "sorry, it can't be done".

Was it necessary to have very good knowledge of Japanese
Katja Niesche: In an international city like Tokyo you can get by quite well with English. At the office as well. When you find yourself outside of touristy areas, you quickly run into comprehension barriers. The vocabulary that my colleagues taught me was very helpful in those cases. However, I am light-years away from being able to hold a conversation in Japanese. Luckily, the Japanese are absolutely thrilled when foreigners can string together a few words and are interested in their language and culture.

How did it come about that you went to Tokyo and what exactly did you do at T-Systems?
Katja Niesche: I always wanted to work abroad for a while. The direct entry offers centralized support and I pulled out all the stops, gathered information about offers and contacted the responsible contact persons. However, it was just by chance that I ended up in Japan. Colleagues told me about the possibility of going to Tokyo and my profile as well as the requirements of my home department perfectly matched the content of the foreign assignment at T-Systems Japan K.K..

To what extent did the assignment help you?
Katja Niesche: Working abroad certainly adds value to a CV. It was also beneficial for me to gather additional project experience and to be able to get a taste of the Finance and Controlling area. However, the three months in Tokyo were above all a once-in-a life-time opportunity to be completely immersed in another world. It is a good feeling when you realize that you can cope in a foreign culture, several thousand kilometers away from home. In short: It was an unforgettable experience and I would pack my bags again at any time if the opportunity for an assignment abroad were to present itself.