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In our Diversity@NORMA series, we highlight the diversity of employees who work at NORMA Group. In 2022, the series focuses on the diverse cultures of NORMA Group employees. Colleagues from different departments and different countries talk about their culture, how it influences their approach to work and how intercultural exchange takes place at NORMA Group.
In this interview, John Assimakopoulos, Marketing Manager in Dandenong South, Australia, talks about the special community spirit and the Australian way of life.
John, were you born in Australia?
Yes, I have lived in Australia all my life. But my roots are in Greece. When I was 22, I moved from my hometown of Mildura in northwest Victoria to Melbourne.
Mildura and the towns around it are known for wine and citrus fruit and are surrounded by thousands of hectares of irrigated farmland. The Murray River, Australia’s longest river, holds a special place in my heart – it’s where I spent a good part of my childhood fishing, camping, swimming and skiing.
Melbourne is the capital of Victoria and the second largest city in Australia. For me, it was a big adjustment to move from a small town with friends only steps away to one of Australia’s most populous cities. A big plus for me was Melbourne’s Greek community. There are a lot of people in Melbourne with Greek roots, just like mine.
How has Australia’s culture influenced you?
Australia is a diverse country with many a wide range of different cultures and communities. It is also a very large country with a lot of isolated settlements.
Growing up in a very isolated area means you have to be resourceful to solve problems and think outside the box. Not everything is immediately available or can be delivered the next day. So, when something breaks and you don’t have the tools you need, sometimes you have to get creative. But most Australians are always willing to lend a helping hand and pass on the knowledge they’ve acquired over generations.
What is special about your culture?
In Australia, we live by the motto “No Worries”. This motto stands for friendliness, good humor, optimism and community and is deeply rooted in Australian culture: People help each other and look positively into the future. They want to make others feel welcome and that they belong. In Australia, we don’t judge people by where they come from, but by which soccer team they support.
There are some cultural quirks in Australia that don’t exist in this form in other countries: We constantly check our shoes for spiders, sidestep snakes sunning themselves on the sidewalk and accept that we may run into sharks, crocodiles, cube jellyfish and blue-ringed octopuses while swimming. Getting your flip-flops stuck to the asphalt on a hot day is also an everyday occurrence for us. It is experiences like these – things that don’t happen anywhere else in the world – that strengthen our sense of community.
What do you like most about your culture?
There are people from every corner of the world living in Melbourne, and around 140 cultures are represented. With so much cultural diversity, the food is naturally great. If you have trouble deciding between Argentinian, Chinese or Mexican cuisine on a Monday night, you can have all three delivered to your door in less than an hour. We have amazing sports events like the Australian Open and we really enjoy hosting people from around the world. The relaxed evenings barbecuing with friends in the backyard are also simple and yet unforgettable.
What influence does culture have on the way you and your colleagues go about your jobs?
Despite all the cultural differences, there is always a willingness to help and support each other. Always with a lot of patience and understanding. In the Australian mentality, there is also a kind of competitive character. This does not detract from our work, however – on the contrary, it spurs us on to constantly develop further and to measure ourselves together against a high standard.
Would you say that there is an intercultural exchange at NORMA Group? And if there is, what does it look like?
Absolutely – NORMA Group has given me the opportunity to travel and meet colleagues from Asia in person, for example. I’m also integrated virtually into various projects and teams around the world. These interactions have helped me to develop. We can all learn a lot from other cultures and countries.
How do the cultures and the corresponding working methods differ at NORMA Group?
Generally, the working methods are consistent throughout the company; we all work toward a common goal. This gives us the opportunity to learn from each other and develop promising ways of working.
Is there a positive experience you have had at NORMA Group that has to do with intercultural cooperation?
I had the opportunity to travel to Ipoh in Malaysia for a project management course. I spent a couple of days there with colleagues from all over the APAC region. We applied various scenarios to learn the basics of how project managers can work together to better manage future challenges.
Each day was hotter and more humid than the previous one. But one evening we were served Snow Beer. That was definitely a part of the local culture that I was happy to take back to Australia.
There is also another positive event that has stuck in my memory: The launch of valve boxes in Malaysia. By working with our colleagues at NDS, we managed to respond quickly and efficiently to local demand in Malaysia. This allowed us to benefit from their knowledge and successfully launch the product. It was an amazing success that we were only able to achieve through intercultural cooperation.