Three years ago, Hannelore Struger-Waniek decided to start her own consulting business – in Istanbul. “I adore working with people of different nationalities”, the graduate of the WU points out. In Istanbul she is not only meeting people of different nationalities but also of different continents. “The mixture of European and Oriental influences is fascinating”, she says. The host of the Alumni Hub Istanbul speaks in this interview about her experiences in living and working in Istanbul.
What influenced you in your decision to work abroad?
“I´ve always been interested in traveling and exploring foreign countries and cultures, even in my childhood and as a teenager. For example, at the age of 18 I lived in Paris for one year to study French. In 1996, after my studies at WU and a few years of work experience in Vienna, personal reasons brought me to Beijing, China. I stayed there for three years. Although China was an adventure, there were also hardships for expatriates. Furthermore, I also lived and worked in other destinations, like Germany and Turkey. Three years ago, I decided to open my own consultancy in Istanbul. I like the job variation. Every project I am working on is different.”
Describe the people and the atmosphere of Istanbul!
“Istanbul is very lively and busy! Most of the day there are traffic jams throughout the city. This can be very challenging, especially when you have appointments. But the moment you are sitting in one of the many excellent restaurants facing the Bosphorus, you have an immediate holiday feeling. This really helps to relax. And Turkish people are in general very helpful towards foreigners.”
Which challenges do you face living and working abroad?
“You always have to be flexible and you have to be able to adapt to different circumstances. You have to understand the background and the education of the people you are working with. And last but not least, you have to be a real motivator – for others and for yourself!”
Where do you see differences in the working attitude between Austria and Turkey?
“Turkish people have a legal working week of 45 hours, which means nine hours per day. They are willing to work hard and they never complain if they have to work overtime. Their general working attitude is that the boss is paying the salaries and therefore he/she is setting the rules. In Istanbul women are fully accepted in business. For example, percentage wise, you will find more women in high level and/or management positions in banks and insurance companies in Istanbul than in Germany or Austria. As Istanbul traffic is so bad, most of the staff need one or two hours to get to work every morning, and another one or two hours to go back home every evening. So people have in general very long work days in Istanbul! The legal holidays are 14 days per year, weekends included, which means two weeks of holidays per year in total.”
What kind of advice do you have for graduates, who are also planning on going abroad?
“Follow your goals, but stay flexible at any time! Be ready to adapt to different mentalities and cultures and always show respect! Wherever you go, never be arrogant or underestimate the people you are working with!”