The African continent is ripe with opportunities and aside from safari trips and other clichés, there are so many amazing experiences one can have on the continent. From museums and beaches to the local cuisine, there are so many ways to enjoy your time. One of the best ways to discover a new country is to go on an internship. It’s short term and non-committal, but it is probably one of the best ways to know your new city. If an internship is on the horizon, here are some suggestions that may help rock your time.
Learn a little bit about the local culture and language
This is a no-brainer, but it can be a very easy thing to forget to do, particularly when there is a good chance you’ll be interning in a country where English is the primary language of communication. While you may be able to get through your entire time in-country pretty easily solely speaking English, it is just as important to be aware of the culture, as part of the overall experience. It can be fun to learn a few new phrases as simple as “Asante” (thank you in Swahili) or “Goeie more” (good morning in Afrikaans). You will feel a sense of belonging and others will definitely appreciate the effort.
Observe and understand the work culture
All cultures around the world are different, but there is no place where differences are largely magnified as the workplace, particularly on the continent where there is an inclination towards developing relationships and building strong social networks. In many places, it is customary to start off a meeting with extended greetings, asking after the well being of each participant and their families. Some work cultures place a high importance on having distinct work breaks, and see it as a time to interact with colleagues and friends over lunch or mid day breaks. Constantly working over your lunch break while you eat your food at your desk may allow you to put a little more time in, but it may also give an impression of being anti-social. Taking the time to foster relationships in the workplace is a very important part of adapting to the office culture.
Be prepared to put your differences aside
Working in any country that is different from yours can present the adventure of a lifetime, but while the prospect of working in Africa can be exciting, it is important to be aware that the country you are in will have political situations, social norms, values and a business etiquette that is different from what you are familiar with, and may make it difficult for you to carry out your tasks initially. While it is perfectly okay to feel some discomfort, it would be to your discredit to put down your host country’s norms or tell everyone how much better yours is. It may take a while to adjust to your new way of life, but with time, you’ll become accustomed to your new normal.
Make the most of workplace events
With so much going on right now on the continent, there are so many networking activities that constantly bring individuals from different sectors together. Workplace events provide a great opportunity to meet other interns, expats and nationals who are doing or hope to do amazing things. Make the most of your time and you never know which doors will open up for you.
Mix and mingle with in country co-workers and locals
It’s great to chat it up with your colleagues at work, but take your new found friendship a step further and get to know your co-workers after 5 o’clock. There are many ways to do this including happy hours, dinner & drinks, weekend events and shopping trips. This can be a great way to explore your new city, and your interactions will help you develop a well-rounded view of your country.
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