Work Week One and Thriving

Within the first week of my internship I have been able to observe a lot about my office culture and heard a lot about the other Pitt students’ companies. One of the largest differences I have noticed between Germany and the United States is the emphasis of work and personal life separation here in Germany. Everyone at my office is very friendly and kind to each other during the work day, but after the day is over, they go home and have completely separate lives. Nobody seems to go out to dinner or any other activities with their colleagues after work, which is very different from the United States, where most people’s good friends outside the office are the colleagues that they have met inside the office. Germans also make a point of leaving their work at work, and do not take it home. For example, it is uncommon for anyone to be sending work emails during the evening or on the weekends. Everyone, also, leaves between 5 and 6pm. Nobody is staying late to finish work, like what we see at home.

Overall, my firm is not too formal, but is a little more conservative as the average age of my colleagues seems to be about 40 years old.  The company is a little more mechanical than creative and open, I would say, but that also comes with the type of work I am doing, finance and accounting, rather than a field that is stereotypically more creative such as marketing. Although this is a brief description of my specific company culture, from what I have heard from the other Pitt students, there seems to be a wide variation of company cultures in Berlin. The more creative and informal companies seem to be the ones where the employees are a bit younger, which is expected, of course.

I was fortunate that everyone at my company was extremely warm and welcoming upon my first day, especially because I was so nervous and had no idea what to expect. I was taken around the office and introduced to everyone in each department of the finance floor of my company, Sirius Facilities GmbH. The plan, for now, is for me to complete more of a financial rotation internship, but my supervisor is very open to my ideas and feelings and has made it clear that if there is a particular area that I learn to like better than others, we can tailor the internship to focus primarily not that area of finance. For my first week of work this past week, I was placed in the Accounts Receivable department, which is an office made up of five employees. This department is mainly responsible for managing the rent invoices for Sirius. Sirius Facilities is in the commercial real estate industry, so each month they have to ensure that all of their tenants’ rent is in order. So far I have been learning how to process and manage invoices using SAP, which is a software system I have never used before. My bosses have been so kind and patient teaching me how to use SAP properly, which I am grateful for because I feel like I have been taking a while to learn the functions. An extra challenge that is added to the job is that my company laptop’s keyboard and programs are both in German. My experiences at Sirius have been nothing but positive, so far, and I am excited to continue learning more about the organization and its processes.

Because I leave for work at about 8am each morning and do not get home until around 6 or 6:30pm in the evening, there is very little room on the weekdays for doing much besides running errands and doing some chores. On the weekend, however, we have a lot of time to explore the city. This Friday the other Pitt students and myself made it a point to have dinner together, since we do not see each other at all throughout the week. We went to an authentic Taiwanese restaurant and caught up with each other. On Saturday we all went to the East Side Gallery in Friedrichschain-Kreuzberg. The East Side Gallery is a series of graffiti and art that has been painted directly on the remains of part of the Berlin Wall. It’s a very culturally diverse spot with people from all over the world visiting. The other part that I like a lot about the East Side Gallery is how it runs along the Spree River, where different boats are constantly driving by.

After walking the East Side Gallery, we ventured through a neighborhood nearby to go to a vintage clothing shop and have dinner. The neighborhood was super cute and diverse, and was located right next to a beautiful park where lots of people were hanging out. For dinner we found a little Indian restaurant, which was actually my first time trying Indian food!

Today my roommate, Steph, and I decided to go to a small cafe across the street from our hotel to have a cup of coffee and update our blogs. Then we will head home to get ready for the upcoming work week.

The following is a few photographs of the East Side Gallery for you all to see some of the art work: