Cultural awareness is crucial in landing any job abroad, as well as settling into a new life overseas.
For internationally practicing dental hygienists, it’s no different.
For example, many countries in the west share the same ideals and religious beliefs. This makes it easier for a Westerner (i.e. English-speaking American) to adapt to a western country than for an Easterner (i.e. Asian or Indian).
But this does not mean that all western countries embrace or share each other’s cultures.
The importance of culture to international dental hygienists
Of course, people learn culture over time. But when seeking to move abroad to start a new job, learn as much as you can about the culture before starting. Upon arrival, from day one, you must fall straight in line.
There is much cultural diversity with Americans and Europeans. Learn these differences to get a contract faster and to make your adjustment easier. Let’s consider just a few of these cultural differences.
The culture of recycling
European countries are often very aware of their impact on the environment. So there are strict laws to control pollution and to oversee recycling initiatives.
Most European cities have some sort of recycling law that the locals must follow. If you can travel to the European city you plan on moving to ahead of time, please take the time to notice the arrangement of the trash containers.
Some cities have elaborate recycling bins with three to five different slots. Others may only have one or two slots. These slots may be for plastics and packaging, glass, paper, metals, compostables and general trash.
There are specific bins for battery recycling that can be found at grocery stores. Bins to recycle electronics, old clothes and shoes may be placed around the neighborhood.
Your neighbors are usually aware of your recycling habits at home. If you do not comply, people will likely report you to the local authorities.
The culture of socialism
Driving in most of Europe is still thought of as a luxury. Public transport, walking, or biking may be the only ways to reach some areas of the city.
Even if you do choose to drive, public transport, bikers, and pedestrians always have the right of way. Drivers must yield to them at all intersections.
Universal health insurance is another system set up to benefit the populace as a whole. Under this arrangement, all residents are obliged to buy into the insurance pool.
This is to share the burden of the national health care system among everyone. The insurance is automatically taken from your salary along with taxes and other insurances.
The culture of the ‘stick and stay’ mentality
Americans are known to change jobs and locations at short notice. This is not the case with many Europeans.
While you may find some living abroad, the majority live in or around the city of their birth. Their children will likely attend the same schools as they did.
Many people will likely retire from the only job that they have had their entire working lives. Of course, these trends are changing with the younger generation.
Nevertheless, this is often how life is on ‘the old continent’ that you will soon be a part of.
Aspiring international dental hygienists seeking to move into a culture with such conservative habits must know what is expected of them. They will be expected to keep whatever job they get and be happy to have it.
It goes without saying that the expectation is that you will work hard for the benefit of the practice as a whole.
International dental hygienists working in a traditional dental office may notice many of the coworkers have worked there for ten, fifteen, or even twenty years! This is perfectly normal for them.
As you look around your neighborhood, you will see many neighbors who have been around for just as long.
When you join the European fabric, you are expected to stick and stay. Anything less may seem irresponsible to them unless, of course, extenuating factors force you to move on.
So choose your job and your living arrangements to allow you to stay a while and give a good impression.
The culture of long notice periods
Europeans also like to plan. It is normal for someone to tell you where they have booked their vacations for the next one or two years. Spontaneity is not one of the strong points of German-speaking Europeans and they don’t like surprises.
So it is quite normal to see job adverts four to six months ahead of the start date. This applies to all jobs, not only positions as international dental hygienists.
Make it your aim to plan your job search with their notice periods in mind. For example, the custom in Germany is to give four weeks’ notice, whereas the custom in Switzerland is to give three months’ notice.
When you begin your job search, try to organize your affairs so that you will be able to accept a job offer within those time frames.
The culture of applying for work abroad
The dynamics of working for a small business owner are far different from those when working for a multinational company.
Many multinational companies have scouts overseas and/or arrangements in place to hire international candidates without the need for a face-to-face interview.
In the world of international dental hygienists, a face-to-face interview is almost always a requirement. Before you land an interview however, you need to catch the eye of an employer with an attractive application.
Remember that you are competing against local candidates who know the system well.
The culture of complete applications
Applying to work at a dental office is still very traditional in Europe, but finding work is usually modern and online. A few of the most common websites to help budding international dental hygienists get started in Germany and Switzerland can be found here.
You must to submit a full application packet, including a Cover Letter, a CV (not a resume) and all of your credentials. A CV is similar to a resume but it goes into a lot more depth about your personal and professional life.
An attractive, clean and easy to follow CV and cover letter are crucial.
Your application documents must be in the local language. Pay careful attention to the ad as they may indicate which credentials to submit, at which time and in which way.
A complete application packet includes translated copies of (in addition to your Cover Letter and CV): your diploma, your ID/Passport, your dental hygiene license, any license endorsements or extra licenses, and any letters of reference that you have received.
Good references carry a lot of weight in Europe.
The culture of specific requirements
Some job postings will have more specific requirements than others. These may include speaking the local language fluently, living within a certain radius of the dental office, or having a diploma from that country.
This will give indication about how desperate the office is to find hygienists.
The more requirements, the less in need they are and the more fussy they are.
Many employers accept online applications from dental hygienists. This will usually be clearly stated, but may only be hinted at by the inclusion of an email or web address.
For those that do not allow online applications, documents must be sent by post. This will also be clearly stated, or hinted at by the exclusion of an email or web address.
You can find principles and tips on how to prepare for an interview in the book: The International Dental Hygiene Employment Guide: Switzerland
If you need to attend a face-to-face interview, line up a few interviews during that same trip. This way you could compare options and give yourself a better chance to find a position.
Use the visit to look for housing near the offices and get to know the cities. If you plan to learn the language while you work, research language schools in the area and check pricing.
Being aware of cultural differences can help aspiring international dental hygienists to prepare for their job search. It will also help them to understand the expectations on the other side of the field.
Join the Ranks of International Dental Hygienists
If you wish to join the many international dental hygienists already practising overseas, we can help. Check out the coaching and consulting services offered by Dentallynx International and contact us directly.