A Clash of Cultures - Special Speech Edition

Written by Teodora Barb-Dudan - Thonkathon Speech Winner


Ladies & Gentlemen

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I’m very happy to be here and I would like to congratulate again the organizers for coming up with such a great event idea.

Before starting I would like to briefly introduce myself because I know that most of you don’t know me. My name is Teodora and I’m originally from Romania. 6 years ago I got the chance to move with my family to Rauma thanks to my father’s job. I like to call Rauma my second hometown, because this is the city where I’ve grown up from an adolescent into an adult. Last year on August I moved to Jyväskylä because I got accepted to the university. At the moment I am a first-year student at JAMK University of Applied Sciences working towards my bachelor’s degree in International Business.

Cultural Diversity

Today I would like to talk about cultural diversity and the importance of students at the workplace. The reason why I chose cultural diversity is because Finland itself, its workplaces and educational institutions increasingly consist of various cultural, racial and ethnical groups.

If we take a look at the dictionary, cultural diversity is “a system of beliefs and behaviours that recognizes and respects the presence of all diverse groups in an organization or society, acknowledges and values their socio-cultural differences, and encourages and enables their continued contribution within an inclusive cultural context which empowers all within the organization or society.”

We can learn one from another, but first we must have a level of understanding each other to facilitate collaboration and cooperation. Cultural diversity supports the idea that every person can make a unique and positive contribution to the larger society because of, rather than in spite of, their differences.

Successful businesses must continue to think globally. Embracing cultural diversity in the workplace if an important step for businesses that want to be competitive on an international scale in my opinion.

Benefits of a multicultural workplace

Firstly, I would like to talk about a few benefits that result from a multicultural group at the workplace. Researchers have proven that a multicultural company can lead to a greater productivity and increased creativity thanks to the different minds and sets of skills the employees have, all of them working towards a common goal. Often, a product or service needs to be adapted to succeed overseas. That’s why a multicultural workforce offers important local market knowledge and insights that can offer a huge competitive advantage and profitability to the company.

At the same time, multiculturalism comes with its challenges. Sometimes negative cultural stereotypes take control over relationships between colleagues, which affects the productivity of the company. The risk of misunderstandings due to translations, accents or idioms can cause problems sometimes. Moreover, cross-cultural communication comes down to much more than just words spoken. Non-verbal communication such as eye contact and comfortable levels of physical space can lead to offenses between team members from different countries. However, if we put in balance the advantages and disadvantages, a multicultural team offers more benefits than it takes.

Moving to Finland has been one of the most major changes that has happened to me. Probably all of you have heard about the “honeymoon – culture shock – recovery – adaptation” process that every person goes through when they move to another country. These days I can definitely say that I’ve reached the adaptation phrase. But back then, in the beginning, I keep asking myself “Is there something wrong with me? Why can’t I adapt faster? Why no one wants to be my friend? Why does this language seem so impossible to learn? Can I go back home?”. As we all know, the culture we are born in it shapes our identity and influences our behaviour. My values were guiding a sense of what’s normal and what’s abnormal. In the end, of course there wasn’t anything wrong with me nor with the Finnish culture. I was just seeing the world through my “Romanian cultural glasses”.

Student empowerment

Today, we are all participating in an event organized by SAMK’s students. That’s why I think that at the end of this speech it is really important to remember and emphasize the many benefits that we, the students, are bringing to the companies we are working for. As you know, students understand how competitive it is to get a job and stand out from the peers. That’s why we tend to be highly grateful for the opportunity to work in an organization. We are also ready to work had to impress and add value to the company. Millennials may get a bad reputation for texting or using social media for communicating, but these technology skills can contribute to the business. We all know that one of the main functions of a business is to earn profit.

Probably the biggest advantage that hiring a student gives to a business are the lower salary costs since already established workers require a higher salary. A student working part-time for a company today might be the employee of tomorrow.

We students will be the workforce of tomorrow. Businesses should still consider the long-term capabilities of their newest possible employee. Hiring a student with a lot of drive and potential could definitely be a much smarter decision. With the ability to be trained and guided toward specific managerial roles, we student usually offer more flexibility than more experienced professionals. As an old saying says, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” applies to the work life as well. We tend to absorb, understand and execute new instructions and training at a much higher rate than older workforce members.

To finish I’d like to say thank you. I sincerely appreciate that I’ve had this opportunity to present to you. Thank you for your attention and have a nice evening.