Now that I have been back in Wisconsin for a couple of weeks and have been asked a lot of questions by my friends and colleagues, I have had some time to really think about the exchange program. While I was there, the time went by very quickly. The staff at Crowe Horwath Peak were fantastic. They were excellent hosts and made me feel very welcome.
During the exchange program I got to see and try a lot of interesting things.
I don’t think that I could easily say what my favorite part was. I enjoyed seeing all the sights in London, like the Tower of London and Big Ben. Watching the soccer match in Rotterdam was very interesting in comparison to American Football games. Seeing the historic buildings and canals of Amsterdam was also very fun. I really enjoyed trying all the different types of food.
For most of the exchange I spent my time assisting with one, large consolidated audit client.
It was a very interesting client in the film industry. All of their conference rooms were named after famous directors like Bigelow, Kubrick, etc. They also had all kinds of movie memorabilia filling the halls. Although all the documents the client provided us were in English, all of Crowe Horwath Peak’s audit workpapers were in Dutch. This made some of the work that I did feel a little bit more piecemeal and made it impossible for me to read through the audit programs. However, I thought that the auditing was quite similar to work we do here in the United States. There were several instances where I questioned whether there might be a difference in the accounting standards between our two countries, but in the end, it seemed like there was more in common than there was different.
As you may expect, I noticed a lot of cultural differences being half-way around the world.
For example, at Crow Horwath Peak the building was broken into many large offices. Approximately four staff would sit in each office. It generally seemed like each office housed the equivalent of a manager, a supervisor or a senior, and one or two staff-level accountants. Another interesting difference in the office culture was that everyone in the office would take turns going from office to office checking to see if they could get a coffee or tea for their colleagues. They actually had small serving trays like you would see a waitress using at a restaurant. Socially, they say that the Dutch are a very direct group of people. However, I didn’t really notice that. I did notice many small differences such as eating the evening meal later at night than I am accustomed to, but nothing that I really think set us or them apart.
The most important piece of advice I have for future employees participating in an exchange would be to keep an open mind and try as many different things as you can.
There were definitely times when I felt a little out of my comfort zone. There were some foods that I tried and didn’t care for, but there were many new ones that I enjoyed. There were also times when I was invited to go out and do something when I might have preferred to relax in my hotel room. But the exchange was only a couple weeks and the memories from the places I saw will last much longer than of any TV show I may have watched in the hotel.