International Profiles From Budapest to Bonn, Éva Somorjai of Telekom says a positive approach is key

Bonn · Since the New Year of 2017, Éva Somorjai has been Chief Human Resources Officer of European Center at Deutsche Telekom. Carol Kloeppel met up with her to hear about her initial experiences in Bonn - from kitchens to shaking hands.

 Éva Somorjai moved from Budapest to Bonn in 2017 to take on the position of Chief Human Resources Officer of European Center at Deutsche Telekom.

Éva Somorjai moved from Budapest to Bonn in 2017 to take on the position of Chief Human Resources Officer of European Center at Deutsche Telekom.

Foto: Telekom

When Éva Somorjai moved to Bonn from Budapest, Hungary just before the New Year in 2017, she received helpful support from relocation services at Telekom but was quite surprised to learn about some of the rental habits in Germany. For example, she was shocked to learn that there was not always a kitchen in a rental apartment. “We don’t move lights, curtains and kitchen furniture which is built in, because it belongs to the house. It’s designed to match the flat so you don’t take these things away,” explains Somorjai about rentals in Hungary. Somorjai was appointed the Chief Human Resources Officer of European Center at Deutsche Telekom in January 1, 2017. She says with a laugh, “I never experienced before that I had to run around for lights in the first week, otherwise I would be sitting in the dark.”

Being open to the culture

The HR European chief at Telekom has a front row seat when it comes to being new in Bonn, and she expresses herself thoughtfully. She believes there are a few factors that influence whether new arrivals settle in and feel at home here. First, one has to “respect the existing culture because you are a newcomer so you will need to accept the rules that are in place.” Second, she feels that newcomers have to be open and want to understand where they have landed. One can assume the perspective of a visitor, or one can put in more effort and try to make it a temporary home. “If you put more into it, then you also get more out of the experience,” she says. Just this week, after all her traveling, and now that furniture has arrived, she was able to have some friends over, and that is part of it making it home.

Somorjai also has Australian citizenship and family in Australia. She moved to Melbourne after graduation from university and worked there. She admits that Australia is “one of the nicest places in the world” because it has “everything in nature you can dream of from snowy hills to best beaches and amazing wildlife.” However, in terms of culture, “Europe has something really extraordinary when it comes to music, theater, and performances.”

Her advice for people who may have just moved to Bonn: “Be open minded, accept things as they are and try to fit in.” It is important to not always compare it with where you came from, and keeping a positive approach is key. Éva Somorjai recalls with humor her initial experience with the German handshake. Accustomed to a culture where personal touch does not necessarily extend to business life, she found here that everybody kept reaching out their hand to her. She would smile politely, keeping her hands to herself until a co-worker pointed out that this was upsetting to colleagues. Shaking hands is the norm in Germany. So this was a part of her adaptation to the German workplace. She also learned that German employees take very seriously the balance between work and private life, something she finds positive.

What’s important when looking for international employees

As a human resources professional, she says there is a combination of things they look for when hiring international employees at Telekom. Of course, the worker must have the skill set required, but also important is a sense of mobility, a willingness to move and be open to a new culture - it’s an attitude. Important is “how open you are in general to learn and a lot of times this is also correlated with entrepreneurship, and whether you are willing to take a risk to start a new life.”

Bonn is friendly and international

Ms. Somorjai said people have been very welcoming in Bonn. Shopkeepers have been kind to her even though she doesn’t speak much German yet. The neighbors are also nice. Altogether she has been positively surprised at how helpful and friendly people have been in Bonn. “There is a lot of openess culturally, and personally.” Bonn offers sports and culture, interesting associations and clubs, and the river is here and the mountains are close. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and bicycling, but she would also like to find a place to kayak - she has already navigated the Danube.

Come April, Somorjai would like to start with German lessons so she can expand beyond ordering at a restaurant. Until now, she has been busy traveling to all the countries for which she is responsible, getting to know the colleagues there. She has been to Poland, Greece, Macedonia and Austria but she still needs to travel to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Montenegro, Albania, Croatia and Romania.

With her fresh perspective as a newcomer to Bonn, she feels that it is “absolutely” an international city. She hears various languages being spoken and sees people of many different backgrounds on the streets, as she notes, all living peacefully together.

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