A Swiss in Japan: Ruedi Schoppmann’s 24 years in the land of the rising sun

Ruedi Schoppmann, a very friendly and likeable Swiss man, sits calmly on a park bench and enjoys his lunch break amidst the hustle and bustle. He has been at home in Japan for 24 years, currently as Head of Customer Service at HEIDENHAIN. His journey began in Finland at a Nokia affiliated design house, which led him to their branch office in Japan and finally to HEIDENHAIN. However, he not only had to adapt to the new culture professionally, but also linguistically and culturally. In this article, we take a look at Ruedi’s life and career and find out how he finds the balance between Swiss traditions and Japanese culture.

Via Finland to Japan: the beginnings of a remarkable journey

Ruedi Schoppmann began his career at Nikon in Finland before moving to Japan for the company. What was planned as a temporary stay turned into four years. When he had the opportunity to work for HEIDENHAIN in Japan, he jumped at the chance without hesitation. This move laid the foundation for his deep connection with Japan and paved the way for his current position, which he describes as his “dream job”. “What was planned as a temporary move turned into a lifetime of 24 years in Japan. My fascination with Japanese culture and working methods has firmly anchored me in the land of the rising sun.”

Language and culture: the challenges and beauty of cultural change

When Ruedi came to Japan, he faced the challenge of adapting not only professionally, but also linguistically and culturally. He immersed himself deeply in the Japanese language and culture in order to succeed. His employer even decided to speak only Japanese with him, which further aided his integration and helped him understand the Japanese way of working. “Learning Japanese was like opening a door to a new world. It not only allowed me to progress professionally, but also to develop a deeper understanding of Japanese culture.”

Life in Japan: between tradition and modernity

The distance and cultural differences make it difficult to maintain close ties with home. In Japan, Ruedi has found a close-knit, strong environment that helps each other out, especially when problems arise. He regularly maintains traditions such as fondue evenings with friends and this manages to keep Swiss culture alive in his life in Japan. “The connection to home remains strong, but I have also learnt to appreciate the beauty and depth of Japanese culture. Sharing traditions such as fondue dinners with Japanese friends has helped me to build a bridge between the two worlds.”

The job: challenges and successes in the Japanese working world

As Head of Customer Service at HEIDENHAIN, Ruedi faces unique challenges. Japanese employees obey strong hierarchies and authorities, which sometimes makes it difficult for him, as Europe has a different work culture. Nevertheless, Ruedi has managed to build a reliable and ambitious team that lives up to the company’s high standards. “The Japanese work culture is characterised by hierarchy and respect for authority. As a foreign boss, this is sometimes a challenge. But through trust, we have built a strong and reliable team.”

The fair: Insight into the world of customer service and technology

The Nepcon trade fair offers Ruedi a welcome break from the daily grind. As Head of Customer Service, he oversees the construction and dismantling of the exhibition stand and ensures that everything runs smoothly during the trade fair. It’s an opportunity to meet customers in person and discuss the latest developments in the industry. “The Nepcon show is an opportunity to meet our customers face-to-face and provide them with the best service. It’s an exciting time to showcase the latest technologies while representing HEIDENHAIN’s values.”

ruedi schoppenheimer portrait

“The Japanese work culture is characterised by hierarchy and respect for authority. As a foreign boss, this is sometimes a challenge. But through trust, we have built a strong and reliable team.”

Ruedi Schoppmann, Head of Customer Service, HEIDENHAIN Japan
The connection to Switzerland: Between two worlds

Although Ruedi regularly travels to Switzerland, for the time being he remains in Japan, where he has built his life. He tries to maintain the connection to his roots by meeting friends and cultivating traditions. This connection to his homeland helps him to find and appreciate the balance between his Swiss heritage and his Japanese way of life. “Although I spend most of my life in Japan, Switzerland will always remain my home. The regular visits and meeting friends help me maintain the connection to my roots and preserve my identity as a Swiss.”