Organizational Culture: Work Update
Although they are technically classified as a start up in the German market, Birkholz International definitely doesn’t feel like one. To start, they already have a firm understanding of the fragrance industry due to their successful beauty line marketed in Arab nations. They have international offices as well as an impressive headquarters here in Berlin complete with high tech laser engraving machines, perfume bottling machines, and ornate display rooms. In short, Birkholz International knows how to do perfume— and how to do it well. As they prepare for a major product launch in the highly competitive German fragrance market, important decisions are constantly being made and collaboration is held in high regard.
The organizational culture is definitely professional and methodical but at the same time synergistic and innovative. I have attended multiple meetings whereby topics such as website layout and design, product ideas, and company specifics are continually discussed, revised, and improved. These meetings are completely in German and I am often asked my opinion about topics/ ideas. Last week an important meeting took place with a film production company that was in consideration to create content for the website launch. This company has created content for McDonalds, Mercedes, Volkswagen, etc. The meeting environment was extremely serious and professional. Herr Birkholz was firm and direct with his questioning and we sat in a panel- like form across from the company representatives as they presented their pitch.
In short, the organizational culture is formal and efficient but creative and open. Different ideas and suggestions are constantly being offered and debated. Next week we have a “workshop” with another company who is designing additional content. The way it is being described is that this company has activities for us to complete and questions for us to answer to give them a better idea about Birkholz International’s values and branding. I am interested to see how this more informal and open meeting will differ from the one before it.
Trip to Prague
This weekend I got in touch with my Czech heritage and visited the beautiful city of Prague. I had heard once before that Prague was considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but I had no idea just how beautiful it would actually be. I also didn’t realize how many cool sights Prague has to offer—Charles Bridge, Prague Castle, old town square, John Lenon wall, Vltava river—just to name a few!
Upon arriving in Prague the culture shock was REAL. Although it is only 4 hours from Berlin, Prague is quite different from Germany. Having studied German for many years, I can understand almost every sign, billboard, etc. that I encounter. In Prague I could not only NOT understand anything around me, but I also couldn’t even begin to pronounce the Czech language. Additionally, while Berlin and Prague were both once under communist rule, I found that signs of communism are much more engrained in the Czech culture. For example, in Prague they drink a soda called Kofola. This is because under communist rule they had no access to Coca-Cola products. The people in Prague are also much more distant and reserved. I can’t actually recall having a conversation with anyone that was actually from the Czech Republic. I spoke to many foreigners from places such as England, Germany, Ukraine, Spain, Ireland, France but cannot recall holding a conversation with any native Czechs (excluding restaurant servers or cashiers). It’s not that the Czech people weren’t kind, considerate, etc. I just found them to be inherently reserved and to themselves.
There were many foreign things that surprised me about Prague. For one, there is a traditional Prague liquor that is to be taken before meals to “cleanse the pallet” and aid in digestion. This is called Becherovka and it is a herbal bitter with a strong ginger/ cinnamon taste and high alcohol content. The products for sale within corner stores and markets were also quite different than things that would be found in the United States or Germany. Not only that but things were also dirt cheap. You can literally order a giant meal that would cost about $30 in the United States for about $7. The public transportation is also incredibly quick, efficient and dare I say—better than Germany’s.
Overall I would say that my trip to Prague was amazing. It was an incredible experience to get to explore my heritage and see one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. While I find Prague to be unrivaled in beauty and culture, I could not imagine myself actually living there. For me the culture and way of life is too foreign. I definitely gained a greater appreciation of the western similarities between Germany and the United States through my time spent in the Czech Republic!