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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.
CheeEng Lim is a Regional Marketing Manager at the NORMA Group site in Singapore. In this interview, she talks about what makes the culture in Malaysia and Singapore so special and her favorite intercultural experience at NORMA Group.
CheeEng, how long have you been working at NORMA Group and were you born in Singapore?
I have been with NORMA Group since October 2017. I am originally from Malaysia, but I moved to Singapore 15 years ago.
What do you like most about Malaysian culture?
I was a Malaysian raised in a Chinese cultural environment. Malaysian Chinese generally exhibits great diligence and resilience, we strive to achieve what we want. The community values education above all else and thus parents and grandparents always go to great lengths to ensure their children and grandchildren get the best education possible. Besides, filial piety is displayed at all times. We have strong family bonds; a sense of cohesion, loyalty and respect for elders are all very important to us.
To what extent have the cultures of Malaysia and Singapore shaped you?
Singapore and Malaysia are open-minded countries that are characterized by cultural diversity – people from different races intermingles and live together harmoniously.
For this reason, the work culture in Singapore is made up of a unique mix of Asian and Western cultural influences. Thus, most people speak at least two languages, and for me I speak four: English, Chinese, Malay and Cantonese. Together with the extensive multicultural experience, this shapes one to have a more open mind which brings flexibility and great cultural adaptability in both private and professional life.
What is special about the two cultures?
The diversity: The largest ethnic groups in Singapore are Chinese, followed by Malays and Indians. In Malaysia, the Malays themselves are the largest ethnic group, followed by Chinese and Indians.
In any case, all the ethnicities retain their traditions, religions, and customs. People still stick to their roots. Living in such a multicultural and multiracial environment, Singaporeans and Malaysians are often perceived as friendly and positive people and are exceedingly considerate in most situations. And most importantly, we interact with people of all backgrounds with respect.
What influence does culture have on the way you and your colleagues work?
My colleagues here at the NORMA Group site in Singapore come from a range of different cultural backgrounds including places such as Indonesia, Malaysia, China and, of course, Singapore. So, we have different nationalities, beliefs, ethnicities and cultures.
This means that various perspectives come together, allowing for unconventional thinking and new ideas. We are flexible and adaptive to different situations and challenges in work. We firmly believe that no culture is the best and no one is superior to the other. We respect and value our cultural differences.
How do the cultures and the corresponding working methods differ at NORMA Group?
The local companies in Singapore mostly value traditional Asian values, where it tends to be more hierarchy driven, meaning that people in higher positions or those who have been with the company for longer have more decision-making power and are more respected.
For multinational companies based in Singapore, like NORMA Group, tend to have flatter hierarchies, likely due to the influence of foreign ownership. There is always room for different opinions, new and innovative ideas, and respectful exchange of information.
What is the most positive experience you have had at NORMA Group in terms of intercultural cooperation?
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, in various occasions, I got the opportunities to meet the marketing colleagues from different countries, such as America, Australia, China and from the EMEA region, in person. We had the chance to get to know each other better, discuss projects and brainstorm as part of an extensive personal exchange.
I think it’s great to meet and exchange ideas with people from different nationalities and cultures. The various cultural perspectives inspire us to look at things from a different angle. This leads to exciting new innovations for the company and more productive working relationship.