Labor Market Aspect of International Business: Contrasts between Europe and the United States

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Blumentritt, Martin S.
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Differences between societies must be observed when it comes to international business. Business practices vary by region, and are formed by the people and cultures that make up these societies. In the last year, I have had the opportunity to work with three subsidiaries of the American firm General Motors. I have worked in Spain, Germany and the U.S. It is through these internships that I have been able to observe fundamental differences between cultures and business practices. I have come up with three fundamental characteristics, which describe the essence of these differences. I have chosen hours worked, benefits, and education. I feel that these differences shed some light on a societies views toward work and help describe how the European and American labor systems work. While in Spain I volunteered for Car Care Plan, a subsidiary of GM. While there, I was able to observe the Spanish culture. The Spanish seem to have found a balance between work and their social lives. They have created a system where work and personal lives are completely distinguishable. Employees are able to able to voice their opinions at the work place and are not afraid to show their true personalities in front of their supervisors. Lunch breaks are taken by the whole staff and are used as a time to unwind and discuss personal everyday events. They tend to view work as a serious matter but not one which should disrupt their lives. I was able to observe German aspects of business while working for OVD another subsidiary of GM, which performs many of the same tasks Car Care Plan. I found that Germans tend to be more relaxed when it comes to dress codes and interactions between peers. They also tend to use dress as a way to classify who has a higher level of authority within the company. The work schedule of Germans is very important. Employees tend to work very close to the clock. They tend to put in almost no overtime and enjoy the generous time off which they receive. Employees receive six-week paid vacations and usually work less than 40 hours a week. This schedule decreases the amount of stress at the work place and Germans feel it increases their productivity. In the U.S. I worked for Motors Insurance Corporation Latin American Operations, which is a subsidiary of OM. I found that in comparison to Europeans Americans tend to be impatient, stressed and overworked. Most Americans tend to put in more than 40 hours a week and feel that they should not leave work until a job is complete no matter how long it takes. Lunch breaks are short and usually just as stressful as the rest of the day. Americans however feel that their salary is compensation enough for their hard work. Americans in general tend to be more materialistic than Europeans. This is very different to what Europeans feel is important. A long vacation might be more important than a new car to a European. I observed many differences while working
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