Hapag-Lloyd is a truly global company with offices in ~130 countries and employees from ~100 nationalities. What’s more, we have ~250 employees living abroad as expatriates on company assignments. Embarking on an overseas assignment can be hugely exciting opportunities to experience career progression and a new culture at the same time. However, moving to a new country can also be challenging. In this new series, we talk to our expatriates around the world about their experience. In this first issue, we learned from Svenja Clausen, Director Global Account Management, about life as an expatriate in Singapore.
Tell us about your time at Hapag-Lloyd:
I started at Hapag-Lloyd in 2004 as an apprentice and since finishing my apprenticeship, I have been with the Global Account Management department (GAM). Over the years, I have had varying responsibilities focusing on the development of business of our global NVO and BCO customers. In 2018, I moved to Singapore to take over the position as Director Global Account Management, being responsible for our Global NVO’s in Region Asia.
What made you want to become an Expat?
Since I first got the chance to pay a visit to Shanghai many years ago, there was always this curiosity on my mind, which went far beyond leisure travelling. I was eager to get acquainted with different cultures, their customs and conditions of living, particularly in Asia, from the inside rather from just spending some days abroad as a kind of “spectator”.
This is my first experience of living and working abroad more permanently. However, I did already have a few “living-abroad-light” experiences that I gained during my apprenticeship. I lived in Italy and France for a short assignments of two months. Both experiences left me thinking that I might want to live abroad for longer periods of time too.
Tell us about your expat experience been so far?
I had an extremely warm welcome, from my colleagues and peers in Singapore, which made it easier for me to settle down and to let me quickly feel at home. Singapore is just a great place to live and work. It is very safe, clean and offers you many things to do – and it’s always summer, whilst coming from an environment with four seasons is a big change, but also a very nice advantage.
Of course, it helps a lot that in Singapore business language is English, which made it much easier for me to connect with others in business, but also privately. I have received so much sincerity and warmth. Exploring the many different cultures is a great experience, which I will never forget – professionally and personally.
I am trying to explore the many different facets of Singapore by bicycle, and also using the opportunity to make some weekend trips to countries nearby. Being in Region Asia I would also like to stress how great the possibilities to travel to the many different Areas and countries here in Asia and jointly paying visits to our GAM customers with our colleagues from the respective Areas.
Moving to a new country is never easy. What has been the biggest challenge so far during your expat assignment?
Business is always a challenge – no matter where you are. I certainly had to get used to the speed of interactions with the customers here in Asia, but other than that, I can’t think of big challenges as yet. Maybe it is because of my mindset that rather sees opportunities than challenges.
Personally, this step of moving abroad has been an exciting journey so far. Not only because of living in a completely new environment, and moving out of the well-known comfort zone. But in particular, having the opportunity to experience the many different cultures that do live closely together in Singapore, and learning more about them from the inside, is very interesting and valuable for me.
COVID-19 has been a challenge for all of us and especially to expats, who are far away from home. What has it been like to deal with COVID-19 as an expat in Singapore?
COVID-19 and its impact to the world has definitely caught all of us very much by surprise and I guess no one of us has ever expected such a massive shutdown to happen. I have to say that I am very grateful of being in Singapore during that time, where the Hapag-Lloyd Management, but also the local government has taken very good care of us, employees and residents, in Singapore.
However, personally it has definitely been very challenging being far away from my family and friends and not knowing how long this situation will last. Anyhow, after more than 3 months of working at home and being locked in most of the time, I am very much looking forward to hopefully return to some normality soon, going to the office and meeting colleagues again, but also privately being able to meet friends for a drink again.
Moreover, I am especially looking forward to travel to Germany again for my home leave, which I initially planned for May already.
Svenja Clausen, Director Global Account Management
Personally this step of moving abroad has been an exciting journey so far. Not only because of living in a completely new environment, and moving out of the well-known comfort zone. But in particular, having the opportunity to experience the many different cultures that do live closely together in Singapore, and learning more about them from the inside, is very interesting and valuable for me.