Thanks for you recent e-mail. I have tried to answer all of your questions below.
In our Uzbekistan office we have to take into consideration some human resource management factors which are typical for any overseas placement and some which are peculiar to Uzbekistan.
Firstly we have to get you a work permit and a labor license for which there is a fee to pay. We then have to integrate you into the local tax regime and private healthcare scheme. Of course, you will then need somewhere to stay and a bank account. Finally, we will also provide you as much as we can with any support you need while you are living in Uzbekistan. This is important as if you have any problems here, assistance from your country may not be possible. The US has a diplomatic presence, but no other country in the Americas and only a few European countries have an embassy or consulate here.
I think your chances of making a success of your time here are very high. You have already demonstrated an interest in the culture and nuances of Uzbekistan. I often find that this is key to any expatriate assignment. Those who come to work in a country with no intention of understanding the culture and how the locals live frequently find expat assignments difficult. Furthermore, our Uzbek office has a mix of American ex-pats and English-speaking locals. This means that you can get to know the place through the eyes of other foreigners as well as from an Uzbek perspective.
Of course, there will be some challenges. Language is a common stumbling block. As you will know the main languages here are Uzbek and Russian. These two languages are therefore very different from English and any Latin-based languages you may speak.
Also, while it is a great advantage to be curious about Uzbekistan, please be aware that there are some restrictions on freedom here that you may not be familiar with. For example, travel between cities requires permission from the authorities. Freedom of speech is also restricted, so be careful what you say and what opinions you ask of others. Additionally, while there are no specific regulations, Uzbek women are expected to be obedient and submissive to men. Expressing forthright views in a certain manner may get you into a difficult situation.
Unfortunately, there is a high failure rate among expatriate managers in Uzbekistan. A major factor for this is the difficulty in dealing with cultural differences both at work and outside work. As I have mentioned before, some people are not prepared for the culture shock they experience and language can be a real barrier.
There is an international atmosphere in the office and the corporate culture is very present here. Nevertheless, the Uzbeks’ approach to meetings is very different to that of the US. Meetings are more a discussion, rather than designed to reach a particular conclusion. Obviously, the local culture dominates in dealing with external people.
Life outside the office also contributes to some failures. Some people feel claustrophobic as they do not feel at ease leaving the ex-patriot atmosphere. Others have brought there families over, who may find it difficult to settle down and adapt.
Certain things that are in power to help expatriated managers settle in is provide a basis of stability. That means ensure they have decent housing, medical insurance, a bank account and a mobile phone contract. I can also organize culture and language classes to make people feel at home. These services can also be extended to husbands and wives, so that everyone feels included. Finally, I would like to set up a network of all ex-patriots working for international companies in Uzbekistan. This provides people with a social sphere, where they can compare experiences or take a break from the culture shock.
Russia has been a key cultural influence on Uzbekistan, certainly in the twentieth century during the life of the Soviet Union. Appraisal systems have been clearly affected by this culture, as the manager talking down to the worker. In Soviet times, even the company director had a boss, the regional party head and this is what Hofstede classifies as Power Distance. This element also influences the extent to which teams manage themselves. The collective spirit may have been promoted heavily in Soviet doctrine, but teams still require their leaders to make decisions. After all, in Soviet times, one did not have freedom to suggest alternative solutions and there was no economical motivation to take on responsibility for oneself. Nevertheless, Hofstede would suggest there is a large degree of task orientation, or “masculinity” in teams here. The Russian influence enables workers to stick to a particular task and carry it out until it is completed. It is challenging to compile suggestions of best-practice from workers. They have generally not been accustomed to having a voice that will be heard, so can be apathetic to putting ideas forward.
I hope this gives you some insight into working life in Uzbekistan. However, if there is something else you would like to know, please don’t hesitate to contact me.