Working in an industry as diverse as IT, you have probably noticed the cultural and mental differences between people from different countries. That is why running an offshore development team can pose a number of challenges. To set up an efficient software development process, you will have to tackle existing communication barriers and overcome any challenges that may arise resulting from the cultural differences between team members. For this reason, we have decided to compile a comparative analysis of the mentalities and cultural specifics of workers in the most popular locations for software development. We also created a buyer's guide to outsourcing to Ukraine in case you want to get a wider perspective. Here are some of our observations.
Why Hire Ukrainian Developers? Ukrainian Mentality and Labor Laws
Ukrainians are known to be hardworking. In addition to this, they are considered very creative when it comes to finding ways to complete a given task before a deadline. Their outside-of-the-box thinking and outstanding technical skills often result in major benefits for a business. It is true to say that Ukrainian developers prefer working smarter, not harder.
Due to the significant disparity between the wages of junior- and senior-level specialists, Ukrainian developers are highly motivated to advance as professionals and grow faster. That is why an average senior software engineer in the country is 27-29 years old, something that often surprises western employers.
Ukrainian developers tend to show higher involvement and commitment to their jobs: 82% of them said they work in software development simply because they are interested in the technology, while 48% of Ukrainian programmers code for fun in their free time.
Programmers in Ukraine tend to rely on detailed planning and clear requirements, which is why it is important to share as much background information with your developers as you can. As soon as they get to see the bigger picture surrounding a problem, they will invariably come up with opinions and suggestions about how to achieve what is needed.
Ukrainian software developers are very responsible when it comes to their work. Due to this commitment to results, they often voice their opinions on different problems. However, instead of simply criticizing their counterpart’s opinion, they will usually try to offer a better way out of the situation.
The Ukrainian work ethic is similar to Western Europe and the USA. This is why many western companies hire Ukrainian software developers.
Communication and English proficiency
Almost 70% of Ukrainian programmers have an intermediate or upper-intermediate level of English proficiency. Practically no language barrier exists, unless your project requires a particularly advanced knowledge of English.
Source - dou.ua
As a nation of introverts, Ukrainian software engineers can seem reserved and distant at first impression. Despite this, most are actually easy-going and fun to work with after they get accustomed to their project and team. Formality in communication, which might seem strange to US employers, is really just a sign of respect.
Labor laws in Ukraine
A standard Ukrainian work week is 40 hours long (with 5 work days and 2 days off at the weekend). Overtime is limited to no more than 120 hours per year.
Labor legislation guarantees 10 public holidays per year (on average). Additionally, Ukrainians have the right to 20 paid vacation days per year.
Ukrainian labor laws are actually similar to those found in most European countries. Yet, there is one major advantage to hiring Ukrainian developers. If you decide to end your agreement with an employee, you only need to provide two weeks notice of the termination. Similar processes take 2-6 months in most European countries.
Standard working hours in Ukraine take place between 9-11 a.m. to 6-8 p.m. Some companies (especially in the IT outsourcing business) might be more flexible about this. However, the chances of hiring software developers ready to work night shift are pretty low.
Doing Business in Europe: Western European Mentality and Work Ethic
Although Western European countries have many differences, there are many common traits as well.
European software developers are often cooperative and supportive when it comes to collaboration with their colleagues. Thanks to the high standards of living in most European countries, they have a positive and optimistic attitude about life.
Europeans are more focused on problem solving than workers in other areas on the world. They also seem to be more business oriented in their work, whereas Ukrainians are more focused on technical aspects.
Every nation within the EU has its specific traits. Germans, for example, are thought to be more efficient at work: Compared to other European countries they work fewer hours, although they manage to get more done in that time.
Most European developers maintain a healthy work-life balance and are very responsible when it comes to their working duties. However, it is unlikely that they would take a task home or work after hours.
Western European software engineers usually demand greater autonomy in their work. Having decentralized management and accessible superiors fosters their independence and empowers workers to take responsibility.
Managers tend to rely greatly on their team’s’ experience and expertise. For example, Danish people give higher priority to hands-on experience in a certain area rather than theoretical knowledge. At the same time, it takes outstanding expertise and achievements to justify a leadership role.
Most European engineers favor benefits like flexible working hours or the ability to work remotely. Europeans value their free time and won’t work long hours.
Communication and English proficiency
As an official language of international business communication, English is widely used in most EU countries. This is why there are rarely problems communicating with European developers.
Thanks to their democratic managerial style, most companies foster a very friendly environment. Yet, many Europeans don’t like small talk, and can be difficult to interact with informally. Attitudes also vary across the EU: Danish people, for example, are known for their frankness.
Europeans generally have a great respect for equality and solidarity. Most of them remain cool-headed and professional in times of conflict. If such a situation arises, it will usally be resolved with the help of negotiation and compromise.
Legislation differs depending on the specific country and province. Usually, the number of public holidays given to workers ranges from 9 to 12.
Source - wageindicator.org
European common law demands a number of obligations from employers with regard to paid vacation. Across the board there is a minimum of 20 days of paid leave. Belgium and Italy are among the countries with the smallest annual leave (20 days), while other European countries have on average 34 days of paid vacation - from 29 days in Ireland to 41 in Sweden.
Sweden was the first country to introduce a 6-hour work day. In addition to that, France also demands relatively few working hours. A typical work week in France lasts 35 hours, while additional hours are considered overtime.
Spain also has its peculiarities: there is a long break, a “siesta”, during the day. The working hours are usually 9 am - 1 pm and 4 pm - 8 pm.
The Land of the Free: Cultural Differences in the USA and the American Attitude to Work
Equal rights, personal freedom, and diversity are probably the three shaping powers of the American mentality. People here have a positive, can-do approach to the job and are known to be extremely hard-working.
Americans are raised with a strong competitive spirit. From sports and extracurricular activities at school to college grades or careers, they are genuinely success-driven people.
There is more personal freedom in the US than anywhere else in the world. It is a ok to take a gap year from college or even drop out of school, yet still to make a successful career after that.
US developers are highly entrepreneurial, with seemingly every second one having some sort of side project, startup, or small business.
Similar to most European countries, US firms are structured around a formal hierarchy. However, managers are always accessible and often communicate on the same terms as other team members.
Americans are very supportive at work and tend to show greater flexibility when it comes to deadlines and requirements, in comparison to Europeans. Moreover, they are always open to suggestions and will highly appreciate any participation.
Developers are expected to show leadership skills, be self-reliant, and show initiative at work.
Communication and English proficiency
Americans are native English speakers.
Unlike Ukrainian developers, most Americans are extraverts. They are extremely friendly and always happy to engage in small talk, even (or especially) if you’ve just got to know each other.
Business communication in the USA is informal and direct. They are used to dealing with the people they don’t know well, which is why they typically have strong networking skills. It is common for them to use their connections to get the information they need.
Americans highly value freedom of expression and tolerate personal opinions. That is why you probably won’t hear any open criticism about someone’s opinion, even if it’s not quite correct.
The United States is among the few countries that doesn’t have any legislation on paid leave (others include Liberia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands). Indeed, there are no requirements to provide for paid vacation time in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (1938). Yet, most companies still offer paid time off for their employees.
There are 10 federal public holidays in the USA. However, American businessmen are not legally obligated to offer these as paid days off for their employees.
As a result, most employees in the US (private sector) have an average of 10 days paid vacation and about 6 days off for public holidays, according to the research conducted by the US Department of Labor.
The US has some of the longest hours among the world’s developed countries. The latest data shows that an average American works 1,783 hours per year.
Source - OECD.org
While the 40-hour work week is a generally accepted standard, many Americans work 47 hours per week or more.
Work Ethics and Business Communication in Latin America
According to the Gallup research, Latin Americans are the most positive people in the world. Despite the low quality of living in some countries and some major social problems in others, Latin American people are extremely friendly and optimistic.
Latin Americans generally put friends and relatives before business: Family ties are extremely strong here.
Another specific trait of the Latin American mentality is the so-called “Mañana culture”. People here are very relaxed, especially when it comes to punctuality. The word mañana is often defined as “anytime between tomorrow and never.” That is why coming to work 30 minutes late is pretty common, although social events or friendly meetings can mean that the time lag reaches 1 hour. This aspect of the Latin American mentality has a major impact on international business relations.
Because of Mañana culture, there can often be delays in business meetings that result in disregarded deadlines. Meeting agendas rarely work here. Trying to stick to the agenda or rushing to sum up a conversation might be considered rude.
Latin Americans prefer a paternalistic leadership style. This means that the senior executive is expected to protect and take care of the employees (including their personal needs and family issues). Employees are highly dependent on their leader and can tend to shift their responsibilities on him/her.
Personal relationships and collective spirit are strong aspects of the Latin American culture. Many companies use personal references to hire relatives and friends of the existing employees, thus increasing loyalty and commitment within the organization.
Communication and English proficiency
Unlike in Europe or Asia, where English is commonly used for regional communication, Latin America mostly relies on Spanish. That is why overall English proficiency is low, except in Argentina and the Dominican Republic.
Source - www.ef.com
Business communication in Latin America has a vertical structure, where the information mostly comes from “above” - from senior management. In spite of this, local people are very sociable and often build strong personal relations within a team. This means that Latin Americans are usually good at activities that require teamwork.
For many, face-to-face meetings are very important. Such meetings often start with personal conversations (not just small talk, but an actual conversation, i.e. about your family or favorite football team).
It is thought that Brazilians have strong negotiations skills but prefer a friendly and informal style, unlike people in Colombia or Chile, who are often more formal.
Labor laws vary little across most Central and South American countries. The legislated number of work hours per week range from 44 in Brazil to 48 in Argentina (with a standard 6-day work week).
Overtime policies vary from country to country. Chile limits overtime to 2 hours per day. In Argentina, overtime should not exceed 30 hours per month or 200 hours per year (with a minimum 12 hours resting period between work days).
Mexico has the most generous overtime pay: the first 9 hours are charged at 200%, while the hours exceeding this limit will be paid at 300% of the standard hourly rate of an employee.
Paid annual leave in the region depends on the employee’s seniority. Argentina, for example, has the following policy:
- <5 years at a company - 14 days;
- 5-10 years - 21 days;
- 10-20 years - 28 days;
- >20 years - 35 days.
In addition to national holidays (usually 10-12 days per year), there may be state and municipal holidays (as in Brazil).
Many countries offer additional bonuses, such as Semestral Bonus in Colombia, Christmas Bonus in Mexico, or the Thirteenth Month Salary in Argentina.
Mysterious East: Understanding the Asian Mentality and Work Ethic
Similar to Europe, Asia is versatile in terms of mentality. As the region is so large we’ll focus first of all on two largest countries, India and China.
Unlike Europe, the USA, and even Ukraine, most Indian developers choose to join IT mostly due to the material incentives is can offer, not because they like coding or are good at math. This can lead to a distinct lack of initiative and commitment: developers simply perform their tasks, without thinking much about the product itself or its end users.
Yet, Asians are pragmatic by nature. For example, Indians can show outstanding perseverance in achieving the required results.
Often due to a lack of personal freedom and social pressure, Asian developers can find it difficult to express their opinions or show initiative.
Furthermore, people in the East care a lot about saving face. This means that it is extremely difficult for them to lose an argument, admit their mistakes, or even simply say “no”. On the other hand, Chinese developers are highly adaptable and unpretentious.
Most Asian companies have a strong tradition of subordinate-superior relationships. As a result, there will be a certain hierarchy within each organization you come across.
Asian cultures are highly collectivist, putting the interests of a group above the interests of an individual. That is why many Chinese developers readily sacrifice their free time to work.
At the same time, levels of commitment and engagement are considered pretty low, among developers particularly. Managers are approached as superiors, with a highly formal attitude, while relationships between colleagues are often cold or even hostile.
Communication and English proficiency
While English is widely spoken in Asian countries (it is the second language in India), the average proficiency is rather low.
Certain cultural differences can also impact communication with the Asian employees. For example, Mandarin is widely known for its ambiguous meanings, whereas Indians might answer with a “yes” when meaning “no” simply as not to contradict their senior colleagues.
Because of these nuances, misunderstandings are common between Western employers and Asian developers. That is why clear direction and supervision are needed to set up an efficient working process.
Most Asian people are introverts, and a lack of communication within a development team is common. Moreover, Asians won’t freely share their opinions and ideas later in the process.
The communication between managers and employees is usually top-down. Negative feedback or problems are rarely shared with senior employees or management, which can lead to lack of transparency and visibility within any given project.
Asian countries have the highest number of public holidays worldwide - India has 18, in comparison to 16 in Thailand and South Korea. China and Pakistan have a pretty average number of public holidays, 11 and 13 respectively.
In China, workers are not entitled to any paid leave during their first year of employment. From the second to tenth year, they will have 5 days of paid annual leave. After they have accrued more than 10 years in service, they will get 10 days of paid vacation.
India has an official 6-day work week (Monday through Saturday). Office hours are usually 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, unpaid overtime is the norm here. What’s more, in the outsourcing industry, working abstract hours is pretty common too.
For example, a company working with a US-based client can have their developers work from 4-6 pm to 12-2 am, as to match the office hours in the USA.
Of course, there are exceptions to any rule. There are extremely outgoing Ukrainian developers and very proactive Indian ones. Some Germans might perform poorly at work, while some Americans lack leadership skills.
Despite the differences in mentality and culture, it is always possible to build a fruitful cooperation with enough effort. When it comes to Ukrainian software developers, most European and American clients see no obvious barriers in communication and cooperation. Here is what our clients have to say:
- “We have had plenty of experience working with freelancers from different parts of the world, and have seen a lot of different behaviors from them. However, when it comes to our Android app developer from Ukraine, any differences in culture have been negligible. We think in a similar way, and the result he produces is always top quality.” - Eivind Lindbråten, Founder/Developer at Ways (Norway).
- “Based on our experience with Oles, I think Ukrainians are very similar to the Dutch. They’re very ambitious and honest in their way of working.” - Marieke de Ruyter de Wildt, Director at AgriPlace (Netherlands).
- “Our team in Ukraine is very loyal and dedicated, Ukrainian developers really strive to understand our business, and add value to it.” - Alex Oleynikov, Director of Software Engineering at CompuWeigh (USA).
If you want to see what it’s like to work with Ukrainian software developers, contact us using the form below. Our unique business model helps you hire and retain some of the best engineering talents, with minimum effort and no upfront cost.