Newcomer shares story of cultural differences in workplace

Doris ZhuDoris Zhu and her family moved to Canada from China in July 2015. In China, Doris had worked for years with a Marriott International hotel. In Saint John, Doris has recently found a full-time job at Delta Hotels by Marriott as the controller for the hotel.

Moving to Canada presents challenges for every newcomer but Doris has been able to see firsthand the differences between western and eastern workplace culture, as well. Working as an accountant in the same industry — and for the same parent company — in two different countries has been a unique experience. 

Because Doris is new at her job in Canada, she’s been working hard to learn everything she can, sometimes still at work at her computer when the rest of her colleagues get ready to leave at the end of the day.

“If you always work overtime, that’s what’s normal for everybody,” Doris says. “So I didn’t think there was another way.”

One day, Doris’s manager expressed concern about how late she was working, worried that Doris wasn’t able to create a balance between her work and personal lives.

“I was so surprised,” Doris says. “No one would say that before.”

This was just the first of many surprises. Being part of a team where everyone is equal has also been an adjustment for her. Doris says that some of the benefits she receives as a Delta employee would have only been available to senior managers in China.

The hotel industry workforce in China mainly consists of young people in their 20s, but Doris finds that many of her coworkers in Saint John have been in their position for 20 or 30 years. Staying in one job for decades is unusual in the hotel industry in China due to the many opportunities, but Doris finds it makes the team that much stronger. 

Each morning the Delta team holds a meeting where they joke and laugh while they discuss updates, and everyone leaves feeling refreshed and full of energy to work. In China, Doris says that meeting would be quite serious and sensitive. Employees would listen quietly and only speak up to a manager in private, after the meeting was done. 

When the hotel was experiencing a shortage of housekeepers during the summer, everyone working in administration offices got up to help clean rooms in time for new check-ins.

“Everyone said ‘OK, we can help, let’s go,’ ” Doris says. “You wouldn’t see that in China, because we have the people to support it. We can call another company to help. Here, everyone takes ownership and it’s a very strong team.”

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