best places to intern in Asia

Which internship destination best suits you?

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internships in Asia

Unless you’ve always dreamed of sushi lunches in Japan, tuk tuk’ing to the office in India, or post-work drinks in a Singapore sky bar, you might be struggling to narrow down Asia’s top internship destinations to pick the right one for you. They might seem similar at first glance, but look a bit closer and you’ll find big differences between that make some places more suited to you than others. Of course, that’s easier said than done from halfway around the world, which is why our team has dug a little deeper to bring you the ultimate guide to choosing your Asia internship destination…

  

Hofstede Cultural Dimensions Theory

Before we get stuck in, let us explain how we matched our top 5 destinations to our intern profiles. Back in the late 1960’s, Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede launched a large-scale survey across the international branches of his employer IBM, to find out how culture influences work-place values in different countries. He began by measuring values in the 40 largest countries (later extended to 76), creating the most comprehensive analysis of its kind.  

Using what he called a “Model of National Culture”, Hofstede measured a population’s general reaction to six different “dimensions”. These included the societal view of power distribution, the degree to which people in a society are integrated into groups, how a society deals with ambiguity, and how much control people have over their desires. Through measuring a society’s reaction to these dimensions, Hofstede was able to explain and compare how culture influences work place values in different nations. Using this framework, we’ve put together some of the key features of 5 popular destinations to help you on your way to finding the right one for you.

 

China

find an internship in ChinaInfluenced by Confucian ideas, the Chinese consider hierarchy vital to the functioning of society and the workplace, where it is accepted and respected. Contrary to the relaxed, approachable management style popular among western CEO’s, Chinese managers adopt an authoritative and directive management style in which managers make decisions on behalf of the group. It’s rare to see high-ranking members of staff interacting with anyone below their rank and even rarer for an employee to challenge a superior. Employees should always refer to important members of staff by their family name and greet one another in a formal manner.    

Building and maintaining good ‘guanxi’ (relationships) with colleagues is crucial in the Chinese workplace. Good ‘guanxi’ will influence your internship experience, determine your success in the role, and help you make the most of your internship.

Chinese people are success driven and unphased by ambiguity or change. It’s not uncommon for employees to work late, or for last-minute meetings or decisions to be called. Very little time is set aside for social activities, which are deemed unimportant by most. As crazy as it sounds, it’s an accepted norm in China that interns should be aware of and be prepared to do if necessary.   

China Intern Profile

  • Hard-working
  • Success driven
  • Flexible & unphased by change
  • Good team-player
  • Forward-thinking

Find out more about internships in China

 

India

find an internship in India

Hierarchy is an accepted cultural norm in India and plays a key role in the Indian workplace. Here, it’s rare to see important members of staff engaging with anyone well below their rank. Decisions are always made at the highest level, and voicing disagreement with a decision is extremely disrespectful. As such, Indian employees are commonly dishonest in order to be seen as respectful and to maintain good workplace relationships. Relationships play as important a role in India as they do in China and determine promotion and hiring prospects.

As a success driven society, Indians consider work central to life. Work and study often take priority over social or family engagements, and people frequently choose to work overtime. People in India like to display their success through material things such as designer labels and expensive cars.

Indians view time as very flexible, and society is comfortable with unexpected change. Though rules exist in all levels of society, Indians aren’t afraid to bend or bypass them. In fact, they are innovative problem solvers who commonly believe that nothing is impossible. This results in them being very patient, dynamic people.

India Intern Profile

  • Accepting of different people & religions
  • Flexible with time
  • Innovative problem solver who thinks outside the box
  • Both a good team-player and responsible individual
  • Enjoys following instruction
  • Can think outside the box

Find out more about internships in India

 

Japan

find an internship in Japan Though considered by many as an extremely hierarchical nation, the Japanese workplace is in fact less so than other Asian nations. Arising from the belief that equality is key to achieving cohesion and maximising productivity, supervisors and employees in Japan have an egalitarian relationship. In contrast to their authoritative Chinese and Indian counterparts, Japanese manager opt for a more facilitative management style. Their primary focus is maintaining harmony among employees instead of passing down orders.

According to the Cultural Dimensions Theory, the Japanese are uncomfortable with uncertainty and like to have as much information as possible before making any decisions, big or small. Supervisors are required to gather feedback from their team and pass this on to their managers. The term ‘hourensou’ (report, inform, consult) is commonly understood in the Japanese workplace, and represents the need for employees to report regularly to their supervisor, update all relevant people of their work, and consult others when they encounter problems to maximise efficiency and keep everyone informed.  

Japanese employees are both competitive and loyal and thrive when working as a team against their competitors. Their loyalty is reflected in their tendency to only work for one company their entire career and commit to working excessive overtime to serve their employer. Work-life balance is almost unheard of in Japan, and the nation is known for its overworked and underpaid employees.

Japan Intern Profile

  • Loyal team-player
  • Can see the bigger picture
  • Enjoys structure and routine
  • Attention to detail 
  • Good communicator

Find out more about internships in Japan

 

Singapore

find an internship in Singapore Singaporean society is influenced by Confucian values, making the workplace culture here somewhat similar to China. As you may expect, power is centralised, and decision making is reserved only for those at the top. This is widely accepted by Singaporean employees, who like to be given clear instruction and direction.

The business environment in Singapore is very formal. Relationships hinge strongly on respect and harmony, and conflict is widely avoided. Singaporeans use indirect communication as a way to maintain politeness and avoid disagreement, even if this comes at the cost of honesty. Interns in Singapore should be careful to approach disagreements with colleagues in a calm and cautious manner to avoid harming workplace relationships. Singaporeans are both modest and humble and they place higher value on enjoying what they do than striving to be the best. Arrogance is considered an unattractive quality and should be avoided by anyone looking to fit into their new surroundings.

As a very pragmatic society, Singaporeans tend to save for the future and view new advancements positively. This attitude has helped the nation achieve such strong economic growth and become one of the world’s most developed economies that’s filled with opportunity.

Singapore Intern Profile

  • Team-player
  • Calm, level-headed
  • Tactful & diplomatic
  • Modest and humble
  • Accepting of rules and hierarchy

Find out more about internships in Singapore 

 

Malaysia

find an internship in MalaysiaVarious ethnic groups and religions combine to form the Malaysian population, meaning that the Malay workplace demonstrates both similarities and differences to the other cultures on the list. Owing to its Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist influences, hierarchy is a prominent feature of society and business in Malaysia. Management passes information down to employees, who accept their position in the hierarchical chain and enjoy being given orders. It’s rare for employees to challenge superiors, as this is seen as extremely disrespectful. While hierarchy in Malaysia is rigid, schedules and rules are not; punctuality doesn’t come naturally to Malays, who have a very relaxed attitude towards time and change. They commonly believe that if a rule is ambiguous or ineffective it should be abolished, so you can never take anything for granted in the Malay workplace!

As a collectivist society, the needs of the group take precedence over the needs of the individual. This is reflected in the Malay view that work is a necessity in life, rather than a goal in itself. Consequently, Malays tend only to work hard when they need to, or when they see that their company, family, community or nation will benefit from their efforts. Contrary to the majority of their Asian counterparts, Malays enjoy living for the moment rather than planning for the future, and they believe setting aside time for leisure activities and fun is more important than work. This combines to make Malaysia a vibrant and unique internship destination.

Malaysia Intern Profile

  • Enjoy work life balance
  • Accepting of strong hierarchy
  • Good team-player
  • Flexible & accepting of change
  • Able to work hard when necessary, but has relaxed attitude

 

Of course, the kind of company you intern in will play an important role in the experience you have. Working in a larger, more international company will likely expose you to various cultures from around the world besides that of the country you’re living in. On the other hand, if you’re working for a smaller local firm, the chances are you’ll witness the cultural dimensions specific to the country you’re working in a lot more. It’s important to bear the culture of both the country and company in mind when choosing an internship abroad to ensure you have the best experience possible. 

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