With only two weeks left in my internship I am doing everything I can to soak up the experience as much as possible. I want to get as much out of it as I can both for my own personal sake, since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to fully experience it, and so that I can learn things that will help me in the future. Since I have already spent over six weeks here I am already aware of many of the cultural differences both inside and outside of my workplace. I am now trying to understand why these things are different, what I can learn from them and how I can use that to my advantage in the future. I am still hoping to learn a lot and grow as a person in this remaining time.
One of the first differences I noticed between my internship and places that I have worked back in the United States is the nature of the environment. In my experience, office environments in the U.S. are much more formal. People are dressed nicely, the office space is usually quiet since people are working, and any communication is formal. In my internship the environment is much more casual. Everyone is dressed in very casual clothing, people often talk to one another while completing their tasks and communication, such as emails, are more focused on getting the information across rather than upholding formality. I believe this is because it is a very small company, only 5 people work in my office including me and another intern, and because everyone is very young. I think everyone is much more casual because no one is over the age of 35 so no one is worried about upholding old business formalities. This type of environment was contradictory to what I was expecting before I came to Germany since I had been told that German business in general is very formal, however, it appears as if business in Germany may be getting more and more casual. I think that working in the type of environment may help me communicate more efficiently to different types of people. In classes we always practice very formal communication techniques and by expanding my communication skills it should help me no matter where I find myself working in the future.
That is the biggest difference in my work environment. Otherwise, it is pretty much what I expected, most people are working on individual assignments all day except for the occasional collaborative effort. If anyone has a question they ask freely and open communication is encouraged. Even when people are not talking several conversations are usually occurring through email or Slack. The biggest skill set I expect to have improved after this internship is my communication skills. While I have learned a lot about digital marketing, social media marketing and Google and Facebook ads, the language barrier and business environment have forced me to practice and develop my communication skills.
Most of the other major cultural differences I have noticed occur outside of the workplace. I have also been fortunate enough to travel during the weekends to see different cultures and how they differ from the U.S. and Germany. This past weekend I was able to go to Budapest, Hungary which gave me a deep look into Hungarian culture. From what I saw daily life in Hungary is not too different from daily life in Germany. Basic daily practices are similar, however, the food, language, history and politics of Hungary are different which makes for a different atmosphere. The city of Budapest is also older than Berlin since it was not destroyed during WWII. This was only my second trip outside of Germany since I arrived here (my other was to Croatia a few weeks ago), however, I have also been able to go to Munich, which is so culturally different from Germany that many Germans consider it in another country. Before I leave next Saturday I will also be travelling to Cologne and Hamburg so by the end of the trip I will hopefully have a very good grasp on the nature of German culture and how it differs in different parts of Germany. I will also have a small sample of experience from a few different countries. All of this experience should help be an asset to any company in the U.S., whether it be a smaller company with little to no international involvement or a very large company that interacts with foreign countries daily. My experience communicating and operating in a complex, multinational work environment should help me navigate and improve my future work environment back home.