As an expat from Portugal to Germany

Moving abroad is a special challenge. Using Hugo Ferreira as an example, the HR Development Specialist at KIRCHHOFF Automotive discusses the challenges an expat faces in the first few weeks in their new home. Even though the company provides support at each step, the move does not work without enough personal initiative.

With more than 8,000 employees worldwide KIRCHHOFF Automotive is a Global Player in the automotive supplier industry. The company delivers complex metal and hybrid structures for body in white and chassis to leading passenger and commercial vehicle manufacturers. In the commercial car sector products like axle housing, cross members, front underbody protection and tank brackets also belong in the portfolio. No matter which department an employee works in, he/she is automatically in contact with colleagues from different cultures in Europe, Asia and North America due to the company’s international orientation with 30 locations in eleven countries. The dynamic automotive industry with its exciting technological developments, fascinates graduates and young professionals in the areas of mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and economics.


“Leaving family and friends to move to a different country is no easy decision. After making the decision, the little differences become challenges. How do I register for electricity in my apartment? How does the health system work?” explains Hugo Ferreira of his first experiences after moving from Porto, Portugal to Attendorn, Germany. As part of the company’s internal talent management program at his home location in Portugal, Hugo Ferreira was supported early in his professional development. After the completion of the program, he received the offer to manage the “KIRCHHOFF Automotive Production System”division for Europe and Asia along with this new challenge of moving to Germany; he did not hesitate to accept. Although Hugo Ferreira had worked with German colleagues on international projects for a long time, he has been getting to know the German culture in more depth through his stay. “I have always traveled a lot for my job; that is why the move to Germany was no big cultural shock. I was supported by my colleagues who by now have become friends. But still I do not feel fully integrated. In my culture social contacts play a big role outside work, so now I have to get used to showing much more initiative to establish new contacts.”


Hugo Ferreira is supported by a Global Management Development Program under which all managers worldwide come together. Not only do they develop professionally through training, coaching and exchanging experiences; but they also discuss how to promote the company’s defined values and culture. “To me it is motivating to be responsible for the development of my own team. Continuous learning is one of our Lean Principles, which I am in complete agreement with.” Although he mostly communicates in English due to his internationally oriented role, he also attends German classes. Knowing the local language helps in integrating and finding one’s way quicker. As soon as employees from abroad come to Germany or go abroad somewhere else they receive all necessary support. Language classes and intercultural training are also part of that.


For how long Hugo Ferreira will stay in Germany is not yet certain. As a family-managed company KIRCHHOFF Automotive places much value on constant exchange in order to make sure that no frustration or overstraining occurs – neither for the employee nor for their family members, if they have moved abroad as well.


It is important for companies to find and internally develop employees who are willing to act in an international environment. Those who show flexibility and initiative get the chance to plan future career steps outside of the local subsidy. The HR Development Specialists try to recognize and promote the employees‘ potential early. However, they can only enable the process. It is then the employees’ responsibility to take chances. If in addition to the willingness to learn and the pursuit for greatness in performance there is also the flexibility to venture abroad, it is a real win-win for the development of the employee as well as for the company.


Hugo Ferreira started his career at KIRCHHOFF Automotive as a Manufacturing Engineer in Ovar, Portugal. Already as an “Inhouse Lean Consultant” he assumed responsibility on international projects in order to promote the topic of Lean Management at all production sites. In his new management position on “KIRCHHOFF Automotive’s Production System” he has moved to Attendorn (Germany) in 2015 and since then controls the division for Europe and Asia.

(Source: ATZ)

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