Our colleague Juliana Hirata recently moved from Sao Paolo to New Jersey. I had the chance to talk to her about her move and about how she and her family experienced their new life in the USA.
Juliana, first of all could you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Juliana Hirata. Currently, I am the area sales manager for the United States and Canada. I started with BENEO as a sales assistant in our Brazilian office 20 years ago. After some years, I decided on a change and moved to marketing. Afterwards I worked as a country sales manager for different countries throughout Latin America. Having started with smaller countries, I finally took responsibility for Brazil, BENEO’s biggest market in Latin America. In my recent position, I worked as the area sales manager for the entire Latin America.
Last year, I decided on a regional change, applying for the position of area sales manager USA and Canada. Before I moved to the United States with my husband and my two kids, I worked in this role remotely. Now, I am based in our regional office in Parsippany, New Jersey.
Why did you decide to move to the USA?
I was interested in getting to know different countries, cultures and people. The USA is a big market for our food ingredients within BENEO. In this new position I saw a challenge and a possibility to learn and grow at the same time.
Living abroad is a huge opportunity for my family and me. When I was still on my own, I lived in Switzerland for a year already, which was a great adventure. Now, it is a different kind of move, with the entire family. However, the experience for all of us to live in a different culture, to learn English in a better way and the opportunities of my new role were convincing to me and my husband.
In addition to my own enthusiasm, I must extend my appreciation to my amazing team in South America and different people from the USA who encouraged me to embrace this challenge.
How was it for you and your family when you arrived?
We felt very welcome, although there were a lot of things to be organized. As we arrived in an empty house, I involved my kids, for example, in decorating our house. They were very excited about it, also about their school, having snow in winter and living for the first time in a house instead of an apartment. In the USA, the dimensions always feel a bit bigger. We explored together the different shops and supermarkets and tasted new foods. We enjoyed this great time together.
At first, my son was a bit disappointed as he thought we would live in the heart of New York City. When we arrived in New Jersey he was telling me: “Mummy, I do not think, this is New York” 😊. He soon realized the closeness of about only one hour drive. After our arrival, my kids needed a bit of time to adapt to the new language, however they felt the change in a positive way with a lot of excitement and new things to discover.
How did you experience your first days in your new role? What were your first impressions?
It was a lot of work, as we had to develop our business plan. A great experience was when the entire sales team came together at our office in New Jersey. We had the time to get to know each other in a better way. I knew nearly every one of the team before, however we were not so familiar with each other. During our meeting, we could exchange good practices, things we enjoyed and want to keep doing, but also topics we could improve. To me it felt like an honest and transparent conversation with the team, where exchange and openness were very much appreciated. At the office everyone was very kind to me on my first day, giving a lot of tips and advice. You should buy this and do that… I felt very welcome.
Regarding my role, obviously I did not know the US market as well as the customers back in Latin America, but listening to and learning from the team was truly helpful. I am getting to know a lot of new things. On the other hand, I am contributing with a different perspective, with ideas and solutions which worked well in Latin America. All in all, I am convinced that bringing in diversity is beneficial for both me and my company.
Talking about diversity. Which cultural differences do you notice between your host and home country, both in terms of living and working?
We transitioned from bustling São Paulo to a cozy town in New Jersey. In Brazil, everything was within walking distance, but here we must rely heavily on our car due to the lack of pedestrian-friendly paths. And some small daily things have changed. For example, aligning our meal schedules with American timings, resulting in dinners much earlier than in Brazil. This change was particularly noticeable for my kids, who now dine before sunset, which is a novel experience for them.
Our US sales team is scattered across the entire country. I like particularly that we have fostered a culture of mutual support, even though each person operates independently with his or her own set of customers. For example, a new team member started while I was travelling. It was great to see that all my colleagues stepped in to assist with the onboarding process. It is a team which makes you feel welcome. I truly enjoy working with everyone!
What recommendation would you give to people who also consider living and working in a different country?
Very simple: Take your time. Take your time to adjust and get used to the new environment. Do not put too much stress on yourself and your family, by expecting that everything will work from day one on. Be relaxed and acknowledge that getting to know a new culture and feeling at home also takes some time. For example, those family members who do not speak the local language should be given the time to learn it bit by bit. Also, when my kids could not start school immediately, we did not put too much pressure on us. It needs time to ensure that everyone feels welcome in the new country and home. You cannot expect to have your entire new life settled within one month.
Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Juliana. It is great to hear about your adventure of moving with your entire family to a different part of the world.