Interim Role as a Corporate Expat in Mallorca – a Dream Come True
When I was offered an interim role as an expat in Mallorca, Spain, to become a corporate expat, I thought I had hit the jackpot.
I did. I have a thing for islands, as you will find out in my next blog, “A Corporate Expat in Jersey, Europe.”
After an extensive job assignment in Scotland, I was craving the sun like nothing else. Mallorca never occurred to me as a potential corporate expat destination, but I had no second thoughts about saying “yes!”, which turned out to be one of the toughest and most rewarding interim roles in my career.
One Saturday in early November 2014, I received a call from a headhunter friend in the UK.
He asked me if I was available to travel the following Monday to Mallorca, Spain, for an interview.
I vaguely recalled the job I had applied for a month earlier. While on the phone, I pulled out the application, and I was all-in! Chief of Staff to the CIO, Head of Transformation, and Head of IT Communication it was.
Let me say, despite the warnings and cultural difficulties I experienced in the coming hours, days, and months, I have no regrets. The beauty of the island, its phenomenal weather, the beaches, and the sense of liberty, its amazing wine and mostly lovely people: I would not change a thing.
I got on the phone with the CIO’s assistant to organize flights. She told me in nonchalant Spanglish that it would be best if I booked my flights and be reimbursed. But she took care of the hotel. The culture shock: the lovely assistant could have booked the flights, but she didn’t. I later found it difficult in professional settings to get accurate information and tangible support. People are expected to just get on with it.
Monday I took my red-eye flight from Scotland to London, and then on to Mallorca. It was freezing in Scotland, and an amazing mid-70s when I stepped off the plane.
When I returned home that Wednesday, I received a call from my recruiter: I was hired and expected to start the next Monday. I had no apartment, means of transportation, and my Spanish was about as good as that of a German Shepherd. I dug into Spanish lessons for the basics; intense hours of learning “Hola!” and “Que tal?” followed. I was optimistic because I always had a thing for languages. My call to the CIO assistant, same old: Book your own flights, and I will sort out the hotel. And so it was.
The company paid for the hotel for three weeks but pressured me from day one to find an apartment. I was hesitant to sign a one-year rental agreement, but finally found a lovely apartment in a trendy part of Palma for Euro 900 (about $1090 at the time of writing) with a six-month commitment. Just below was my favorite watering hole: Café Cappuccino!
The Main Cultural Differences in Mallorca
I have been around the block as a corporate expat. But Spain, and particularly Mallorca, had its unique challenges. I found this to be true with all island destinations, such as Jersey, Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
1) The great year-round weather prompted people to leave the office by 1 PM on Fridays. The CIO hated it and expected me to fix that.
There is the weather, wonderful weather, and gorgeous beaches calling for a long weekend. I found out that people made up their time ahead of Friday, coming in an hour early during the week and leaving at 1 PM on Fridays. I was able, though, to convince the troops to adopt a sense of urgency, when certain IT or operational issues affecting clients weren’t resolved, to stay till they were. No easy feat, but point two below, helped me along the way.
2) The need for extensive small talk, asking people about their wellbeing and their families.
As a German, having worked as a corporate expat in the US and all over Europe, I quickly adapted to this second one. I found that this was a great way to establish rapport and trust, something I was not accustomed to as much in Europe or the US.
Barthelona, among other Catalonian language beauties.
I stayed in Mallorca for a year, even after my assignment ended. I fell that much in love with it.
But finding another job was nearly impossible, as Mallorcan companies prefer to hire natives.
I got in tip-top shape, working out regularly, meeting tons of amazing people, and enjoying laid-back Island life for a season.
I will always cherish my time as a corporate expat in Mallorca and I didn’t have to worry about pay, work, and rent.
Have you had assignments abroad? Have you experienced cultural differences that made work-life difficult at times? Let us know!
by: LP Wirth