Cultural differences interested high school students

3.12.2012 2012

What should one take into account when working for an international company? Macarena Pallares from KONE gave students instructions for their career paths during a GEP globalization lecture.

“What do you think globalization is?” asks Macarena Pallares to open conversation in Mäkelänrinne high school.

And she gets answers. The globalization lecture is held in English, but it doesn’t seem to pose a problem to the high school sophomores and juniors. One third of them has gone abroad as an exchange student.

During the lecture, students considered the speed of globalization and the changing world from the perspective of working life. What does internationality mean to companies? What challenges does “going global” pose?

Pallares clarifies the challenges of internationalization and factors that must be considered: differing legislation, time zones, tariffs, and exchange rates of currency, among others.

“Students benefit from a perspective to working life”

These kinds of globalization lectures, held by business volunteers, are a part of the European Global Enterprise Project (GEP). The project’s goal is to teach young people skills necessary in the future job market with the aid of business partners.

Macarena Pallares decided to become a GEP volunteer, because she wants to help young people to survive in working life.

“When I was young, I used to ponder what I wanted to become and study. It’s beneficial for the students to receive information about working life and skills they need to develop already at this point of their lives.”

Mexican-born Pallares has been living in Finland for four years and worked for KONE almost from the very beginning.

“This is a good opportunity for us to share information about career possibilities at KONE. In addition to summer jobs we offer International Trainee programs to college students, who want to do their internship abroad,” Paralles says.

How the Chinese do business

Most conversation in the class is sparked by interaction situations with foreigners. How does one understand different cultures and customs?

Pallares tells students about the differences between business situations in different cultures. For example, in China it is considered rude to say “no,” so in negotiations the Chinese seem bafflingly compliant to westerners. However, this doesn’t mean that the deal is successful; it is merely the Chinese custom of speech.

Similarly, American speech is marked by its spirit of marketing: everything is “great” and “awesome,” even though an agreement might not be reached.

When in Rome – the curiosities of each country

“In order to get along with foreign people, it is essential to understand and respect different cultures,” Pallares states.

As an example, when Pallares herself moved to the Netherlands, she couldn’t conceive why the Dutch waste time by giving three kisses on the cheeks during greetings. In Mexico, one kiss is sufficient. Deviating from the custom, however, would have been seen as rude.

“In Finland we don’t kiss each other on the cheek in the first place. Maybe that’s why our work days are shorter,” comments a junior from the back row.

The students also asked Pallares whether she had heard the about the Finnish reaction, when Newsweek ranked Finland as the best country in the world. Instead of rejoicing, the Finnish people wanted to correct the list:  there’s no way we could be the best!

“In Mexico the public reaction would certainly have been different,” Pallares says.

What skills do I need to survive in the future?

After the lecture, Pallares asks the students what skills they feel will be essential in the job market ten years from now. The students of Mäkelänrinne high school list the following: language skills, cooperative and teamwork skills, creativity, technical skills, flexibility, understanding of different cultures, networking skills, and adaptability.

Teacher Laura Nyyssönen, having followed the lecture, nods. She thinks the cultural perspective has been the greatest benefit of the lecture. It is important to understand the people are different in order to be able to control one’s behavior in social settings.

Nyyssönen wasn’t doubtful about having an English speaker as a lecturer, either.

“We heard some foreign terms. However, it was good that the students got to notice what it is like to have a conversation in language that is not one’s mother tongue,” Nyyssönen says.

Invite a lecturer into your school!

GEP launched in the beginning of the year and will go on for the next three years. Partners of GEP and JA-YE Finland 

are KONE and Siemens. Volunteers from these companies can at the moment be invited into schools to give globalization lectures or mentor JA-YE Student Companies.

GEP globalization lectures are available in the Helsinki metropolitan area, Hyvinkää, Salo, Turku, Jyväksylä, Kuopio, and Oulu with the surrounding areas.

For more information, contact JA-YE Finland’s Program Coordinator Annika Repo and invite a lecturer into your class!


More information on GEP is available at


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