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American firm vs European firm
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American firm vs European firm

I would like to share how different this J1 Visa work experience is for me, compared to my previous jobs in Europe, so I am going to speak about the differences between American firm vs European firm.

It’s always been my dream to live and work in the US and of course, I was expecting that working for an American company is going to be way different ( culture-wise, architectural background, building codes, materials etc.) But I am realizing that it’s much more than just about the architecture, the differences between American firm vs European firm are quite particular. Of course, it doesn’t mean that all the companies in the US are the same so my comparison is going to be based on my personal experience working at KFA Architecture in Santa Monica. I’d like to focus on what I find interesting and what makes my job here so special.

Definitely, the biggest difference for me between an American firm vs European firm is understanding the language ( I used to live in France before and even though I speak French pretty well it was very difficult to do my job properly ). It makes everything so much easier for me. I am able to participate in the meetings, talk to the clients, go to the site visits etc.

One of the main positives of my American adventure is that at KFA they really want you to learn, to challenge yourself, to be capable of working on several projects at the same time… I have learned so much and made a huge progress both professionally and personally since my first day here. I’ve already had two office presentations and that was a big step out of my comfort zone. Everything’s been great so far, however, I’m still struggling with the imperial unit system.

What I find great about working for an American firm is the way how they treat their employees and how kind the people are to each other. Americans, in general, are very social and nice people so to work in such a warm atmosphere is extremely motivating for me. Especially at KFA, it’s very important for them to create a working environment where people flourish, learn and respect each other.

They organize plenty of office events for their employees, I’m going to mention just a few of them:

Personal presentations & Monday morning meetings– the whole office meets for a short meeting where people can share with everyone some important information, announcements, and someone always has a personal presentation that can be about anything we find interesting.

Lunch & Learn / Product Presentation – Once a week there’s a presentation about some interesting topics such as sustainable architecture, new products, materials etc. We get a free lunch and learn something new, could it be even better?

Happy Hours – Every second Thursday of the month the office organizes a happy hour after work which is a great opportunity to hang out, talk and have some fun with your colleagues. At KFA it’s important to have a balance between work & free time.

Birthdays – “ When is your birthday?” That was one of the first things they asked me when I started working here. I find it very nice that even in a such a big company they still treat you like a member of a family. Everybody gets a birthday card with the wishes of everyone in the office.

Even though Santa Monica/Los Angeles was not on the top of my list when I applied for this program ( New York City was the first choice ), it has been a wonderful experience so far and thanks to Architect-US I’m living my dream. I couldn’t have even asked for a better company to work for than KFA Architecture.

Matej Strbka

Intern at KFASanta Monica

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