Last week at my internship, the internal team, about 35 individuals, went on their yearly team retreat called Bergfest to a place near Hamburg that works on team building, and they learned how to improve the company. When they were gone for three days, the interns and a few other members that couldn’t go were in charge of keeping the Hub together and covering the fort. Their communications preferences included low-context communication and transparency. I learned about this retreat that they would be gone when I joined the team during my onboarding process and was communicated clearly on everything I needed to and steps to take to keep the place running. They put the hands of the company with the interns, but it was a great learning experience.
We had a schedule of what shifts we worked during those three days and had a training day where we learned from the other hosts. Two interns at a time had to work the host desk like the secretary or reception desk. I realized that this part of my company has a lot of activity. We had to have guests and members sign in, answer the cell phone and help them with any technical problems or questions they had about the Hub and getting their mail and everything. To ensure we were successful, we were given lots of information and origination tools like checklists and contact information. They have a huge emphasis on verbal communication; at some points, they overly communicated every detail to ensure they were confident covering the shifts. They checked in a lot for us and were available if members came with questions we couldn’t help with. We sometimes couldn’t help with many members’ questions and needs, so we had to be transparent and communicate that they would be helped in a few days when the team was back. Sometimes people would be frustrated but understood that we were interns when we gave them important explanations. Overall, honesty, transparency, and direct communication are super important here. People understand if you explain yourself and are kind.
Besides, through my work in Berlin and Germany, people value decision making and not indecisiveness. When out to eat, it is important to be polite. I have noticed that servers and staff dislike when you want to get their attention or ask them for something while they are doing another task. Also, they get frustrated at times when you aren’t clear about what you want or if you can’t decide, going back and forth on answers. They want you to decide and be direct.
Although Germant is low context, I found Berlin isn’t always super low context. I have encountered some people who have small talk with me, especially the younger generations. I went to Prague for a long weekend using another vacation day, and I stayed in a hostel. In the hostel, we had a shared bathroom, and when I was getting ready in the morning, another girl was too and just asked me where I was from, what I was doing there, and everything. She was solo traveling and from the Bavarian area of Germany. She initiated the conversation, asked if she could join our adventures for the day, and straight up explained herself.
Prague was a gorgeous city, and it was cool visiting. We took a train which was not bad, and did a nice long hike. We had delicious Vietnamese food and Czech food. It was a fantastic trip except for getting fined for not having a ticket on the tram, which was a dumb mistake as the transportin is similar to Germany’s honor system. We got caught and didn’t make a mistake again; it was upsetting and not worth it.
I have had a few miscommunication situations, mostly to do with humor. Germans can sometimes have more sarcasm that sometimes I can’t tell is a joke or not. For example, when I was at the airport TSA, I got confused with something that was sarcasm.
In addition, body language and how one comes off, I feel I misinterpret and take in as miscommunication, thinking a co-worker or someone is annoyed, but in reality, they are not. Also, individuals get upset when you don’t interrupt them sooner when they are talking in German to tell them you do not speak German.
Another activity I have been up to is enjoying the summer days, of course. It was extremely hot this weekend, and we struggled with not having AC. Again in Prague, we visited beautiful gardens and saw old castles and churches. Staying in a hostel room with 12 other people was an experience, but they were all young, so I felt safe. I also went to the Tempelhof airfield and rode a scooter around, which was super fun and felt freeing.
We only have one more weekend in Berlin, which is super sad I feel like there is still much to do for tasks in my internship and exploring!