Much of the differences in my experience with my host country’s work culture I attribute more to the nature of the field that my company is in, rather than the country. Having done an internship that worked closely with lawyers, I can see similarities and differences, due to the realm of law that this firm deals with. At Legal Aid Society, lawyers were public defenders, and I dealt with more lawyers dealing with high incarceration rates disproportionately affecting people of color. Fast forward to Stein & Partners, which is mostly involved in tax law, and I am more or less surrounded by variations of accountants. The atmosphere is similar, in that is feels both fast paced but also rather slow paced. I would say I have a similar relationship with my supervisor here and my supervisor at Legal Aid, leading me to experience a rather similar work culture vibe.
One thing that I do think is perhaps more German-specific is the tendency to talk less during the day, and keep your head down and pretty consistently do your work. This is not at all to say that there is a lack of water cooler talk or people, and this observation could also be attributed to the fact that I haven’t had experience in a more professional/less laid-back setting. Another part of German work culture I believe to be different is (surprise) the overall quietness of the workplace, including when supervisors are talking to employees, although I think this extends to the broader parts of German culture that include being mindful of people around you by keeping your voice down. When communicating with my supervisor, I have found that he is pretty direct in what he expects me to do, but asking a potentially obscene amount of questions for clarification, further expectations, and next projects has helped me provide him with my best quality work. Of all things, I think this could me most helpful to bring back to America, as I have become less afraid to ask follow up questions, ask about projects’ purpose, intent, and audience, and produce better quality work overall.
In other news: this week was a hot one! It’s interesting reading articles in the New York Times about the heat wave that Europe is going through, and then walking outside and realizing you’re actually living it. On Wednesday, we were able to get the half day off because of the heat, and my supervisor was in court all day, so had no tasks for us. I want to say I did something productive with my time, but all I really did was nap in the nicely air conditioned hotel and go to the gym an hour earlier than normal. This weekend, we took full advantage of the heat (as much as one can) and ventured out to the Wannsee Stranbad (or Wannsee Lake) to spend the day cooling off in the water as much as possible. Besides the differences in work culture, one thing I would definitely like to bring back with me to America is the overall appreciation of doing things outside; this can include just walking around, lounging, or even just sitting down on the grass to tan and read. While I often use Sunday as a big chore day, cleaning and cooking for hours on end, and it is annoying that most grocery stores are closed on Sundays in Germany, I think this ultimately encourages people to go outside and get into a more relaxed mindset, something I would like to incorporate into my life. This would allow me to take a real day to relax, breathe, and mentally prepare for the week ahead of me. Even just walking around the park, which I have definitely come to appreciate, has cleared my mind more than laying around on the couch watching TV as a form relaxation ever has.
On Saturday, I spent the day at the Mall of Berlin which, yes, is technically something I can do in America, but that is neither here nor there. Exciting things included finding the German equivalent to Forever 21 (…relatively exciting), finding a bubble tea place (you never know just how much you love it until it’s gone), chowing down on some India food (I think I’ve eaten more international cuisine in the 2 months in Berlin than the three years in Pittsburgh), sort of holding my own talking to store attendants in German, and then having that quickly fail as I tried to figure out what my height is in meters for a pair of pants (for future reference: 172.2 cm).