I am definitely not a big fan of the heat. As soon as the temperature gets above 80 degrees, I am not a proponent of going outside. However, this resolve was put to the test this past week as Europe had experienced a major heat wave, with the epicenter of this being Germany. Thus, it became a game of how to beat the heat using any and all means necessary. And while in America this would be no big problem as we would just turn on the air conditioning and call it a day, this is not the case in Germany. Here, they don’t have air conditioning units as powerful as the ones that we have in America. Germany air conditioning units only have the ability to just cycle air and cool the temperature down a few degrees at most. This is in stark contrast to the units that we have in America that are able to set and keep precise temperatures and have a severe impact on internal temperatures. And this is even recognized by the German Federal government, as there is a Federal law in place that states that workers do not have to come in if the temperature is above 35 degrees celsius inside the building. And with the temperature reaching that last Wednesday, we were all able to work from home; and with our hotel having air conditioning, it was much more bearable to work.
The heat even extended into the weekend again reaching above 100 degrees fahrenheit. This created a scenario where you had to get creative in order to beat the heat. On Saturday, I decided to take a trip down to the famous Kaufhaus Des Westens. This is one of the largest shopping centers in Europe, taking up seven gigantic floors full of clothing, accessories, homeware, food, and restaurants. While the designer clothing floor is always a great place to look around, I was totally amazed by the food floor. Having everything from candy to caviar, there seemed to be no end as to what they had to offer for you to either take home, or eat on sight. This also helped feed into many of the restaurants that were set up there as many of the vendors would have a place to sit down and order a full meal and then have a location right next to the seating where you could shop the raw ingredients. I thought that this was a really cool and business savvy use of space as if gives customers the ability to try before they buy. I also decided to take a trip to the German History Museum. This was a place that I was really excited to visit because I was very interested in seeing if there was a difference in the portrayal of German history, especially the more modern history. However, I did not find this to be the case. While there is the occasional differing of opinion on the severity of certain actions or events, I did not find there to be much of a difference in the portrayal of how events took place.
With the height of the heat wave hitting on Sunday, and not wanting to sit in my room all day, I decided to join those that were in Berlin this weekend for an excursion to the lakes in West Berlin in order to cool off. Located in the middle of the Grunewald Forest about 40 min west of our hotel, the Grunwald is a giant forest/park that has a major lake bisecting it, and plays host to many boating and swimming locations. One of the biggest differences that I noticed was the lack of a central beach location. In the US we tend to have a few big beach locations with large sections of sad or area leading right up to the water for people to lounge at. However, here, there was no central location. Instead, people tend to congregate around the many small natural clearings that are available that border the water. This created a really cool effect as you felt as though you were still in the middle of the forest but also had the water and your own mini beach just a few meters away. Between the water and the shade from the trees, it provided a great way to relax and keep cool during an incredibly hot weekend.
One of the biggest things that I find different between German and American work culture is the strive to get things done. In Germany, I find that there is a greater emphasis on trying to get things done, with no hesitation on staying even hours after closing to finish a certain project or assignment. In the US, I find that this is much more relaxed. It is much more acceptable and normal to get to an acceptable stopping point and then resuming work the next day. Another thing that I also find different is the German propensity to take a longer lunch break. Most of the time there lunches last an hour or longer while in the US, with the exception of the business lunch that might involve a client, there is a much bigger culture around taking a truncated lunch in order to leave earlier. One thing that I would try to integrate would be working till completion. I think that this would be a great way to increase productivity and to get assignments done to a higher degree of quality.