February 16th, 2018 | PEOPLE

【Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 1】
Expatriate Life beginning in the 30s

"Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 1" covers the life of a Yanmar employee assigned to a post abroad. We spoke to Kentaro Hironaka about the challenges he faces during his first overseas assignment. What were his experiences working in a country as culturally diverse as the Netherlands? The part about his rapidly increasing language skills is a must-read, too.

Kentaro Hironaka
Affiliated to Yanmar Europe B.V. (Yanmar Europe) and Yanmar Marine International. B.V. (Yanmar Marine International)

Appointed as of May 2017. At Yanmar Europe, he is in charge of supplying service parts for all products handled by Yanmar and at Yanmar Marine International, he is engaged in marketing activities related to components of ship engines.

Table of Contents

  1. From Amagasaki to the Netherlands. Obtaining a passport for the first time after joining the company.
  2. A workplace jostling with people from more than 20 different countries. What does the cultural diversity of the Netherlands look like?
  3. When it comes to language skills, practice is more important than studying. Achieving a TOEIC score of more than 800 in no time.

From Amagasaki to the Netherlands. Obtaining a passport for the first time after joining the company.

Have you always had an interest in working abroad?

Actually, I did not even own a passport until joining the company. I had never traveled abroad and at that time, I never thought that I would be assigned to a post in the Netherlands. I am only speculating, but it seems to me that there is a tendency that the people selected for a post abroad are the ones who think they will never receive an overseas posting.

What are your tasks in the Netherlands?

The layout of the displayed Yanmar components has also been devised by the employees together.

At Yanmar Europe, I am mainly in charge of the supply and sale of service parts for Yanmar products which are in operation in Europe. My tasks cover everything from visiting customers and purchasing parts to inventory management.

Left : Thorough inventory management is carried out in the warehouse.
Right : The Yanmar Europe Office. The atmosphere within the company, with employees of many different nationalities apart from Dutch, is always friendly and warm.

At Yanmar Marine International, I mainly look after marketing activities related to engine components for ships. My task is to develop precise marketing plans, considering the price compared to other companies and the availability of parts.

The renovated office building and office of Yanmar Marine International. This is the place where the ideas of the Yanmar employees take shape and from where they are spread.

A workplace jostling with people from more than 20 different countries. What does the cultural diversity of the Netherlands look like?

Experiencing life abroad for the first time in your life, were there things you struggled with or which you enjoy?

I didn’t really have a lot of problems, but since this is an environment where employees from over 20 different countries and various nationalities come together, I feel that there is a different attitude towards work, especially the perception of time... The people here tend to do things at their own pace. So at work, I take this aspect into consideration as well.

Even if we are all working for the same company, the mindset and the culture differs from person to person. Getting in contact with so many different people is fun and enlightening. I have gradually become able to express doubts and what I have to say on the spot. While this is also important when working in Japan, when facing language barriers and in an environment where there is an open exchange of opinions, you have to express your thoughts clearly, otherwise you will not be understood.

What I felt in my daily life is that the Netherlands as a country is definitely tolerant. Its territory is about the same size as Kyushu and it only has a population of around 17 million people. I think because the people in the Netherlands know that they cannot evolve without accepting different ethnicities and turn them into their strength, they are open towards people and new initiatives as well.

Left : An event which I saw for the first time after coming to the Netherlands is the "Pride Amsterdam", which is held in Amsterdam once a year. It celebrates equality of different people, regardless of their gender and is one of the largest festivals of people with diverse personalities. (Photo taken by Mr. Hironaka)
Right : The Netherlands is famous for being a top cycling country. Parking areas for bicycles are scattered around the cities and I also heard that it is ok to carry bicycles on the train.

When it comes to language skills, practice is more important than studying. Achieving a TOEIC score of more than 800 in no time.

How did you acquire your language skills?

I did not study in particular. I think you just have to speak. When I joined the company, my level was only around the TOEIC score of 400, but now I can speak without difficulties, so it is all a question of practice. Because no matter how much you study in Japan, if you do not go through the hard work of speaking, you will not really learn it. And as long as you can get the message across, it is ok even if your English skills are just enough to make yourself understood. The people around me are always very supportive and I think that’s an advantage of a Japan-based company. Since I did some work relating to overseas business before coming here, I was a little able to hold a conversation but now I am at more than 800 TOEIC points. This is about twice the score I had at the time of joining the company. But language skills are not a question of scores but of continuing to speak.

The Netherlands provides an environment where one can work with people from many different countries. Business meetings, negotiations and everyday conversations are of course all held in English, which makes the English skills improve naturally.

An everyday life offering the opportunity to closely engage with different mentalities and cultures through work while at the same time enhancing language skills. Such an experience is difficult to find in Japan! The expatriate life full of personal experiences might prove to be a major turning point in Mr. Hironaka’s future.

【Global People of Yanmar: The Netherlands Series, Volume 2】 will look at "Work-life balance in the Netherlands"

Look forward to finding out about the work style in the Netherlands! Dank je wel! Doei!