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“Simply being friendly opens up a lot of doors”

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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.

Ekavi Ntanopoulou is a Specialist Purchasing Systems & Processes at NORMA Group headquarters in Maintal. In this interview, she talks about her German identity as well as her Greek roots and how she experiences the best of both cultures.

Ekavi, were you born in Germany or did you move here? And how have you been shaped by the German and Greek cultures?

My grandparents came to Germany as guest workers in the 1960s together with my parents, who were still young children at the time. I myself was born in Germany and German culture is very much part of my identity. My roots, however, are in Greece. Some of my relatives, including my aunt, live in Greece. What this means is that I identify myself through both cultures and experience both to an equal extent.

The Greek and German cultures are both European cultures that share the same fundamental values. Of course, the people and their mentalities differ. In Greece, for example, hospitality is very important and people are generally very relaxed and laid-back. In Germany, on the other hand, there is a significant amount of emphasis on punctuality, structure and accuracy.

For me personally, I take the best of both cultures with me wherever I go. I am a very structured person and at the same time very relaxed, which means I don’t let myself get stressed out or upset by anything. The Greek composure helps me to carry out my typical German structuring of the daily work routine even better.

What influence does culture have on the way you and your colleagues go about your jobs?

One of the advantages of growing up with two cultures is that I can better empathize with the different cultures of my colleagues. Dealing with the wide variety of cultures at NORMA Group is very easy for me. Some colleagues are very direct, while others are more reserved. The important thing is never to take things personally.

Simply being friendly opens up a lot of doors and, in my opinion, often serves as a kind of the “icebreaker” and the basis for all communication. Friendliness and a positive attitude are understood and appreciated in every language and culture.

Does an intercultural exchange take place at NORMA Group?

NORMA Group is an international company, with locations all around the world. The different cultures are already aligned and harmonize extremely will with each other. My work with colleagues worldwide is always cooperative and productive. 

In my position, I am sitting at an international interface and work with people from all over the world and from the most diverse areas. In the process, I learn something new every day about the cultures, their forms of communication and the different personalities. I enjoy this exchange very much.

Is there one particular event you can highlight in the context of intercultural collaboration?

Some time ago, a colleague from Serbia contacted me about a tool that I manage. Subsequently, we set up a training together, and in the course of this training we shared best practice experiences with colleagues worldwide and were able to improve our ability to learn from each other. I really appreciate this, because through this intercultural exchange, we are moving the company forward and can develop personally at the same time. It is absolutely crucial that we get involved with each other and the different cultures.

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