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Two Day Work Week?

Getting down to business in Germany

sunny 50 °F

This morning I woke up and made myself an omelette for breakfast. Bernd opted for bread and cheese and Elke had to get on the road to go to Frankfurt for the day. Bernd and I went in to work together, stopping along the way to grab lunch, a few rolls with either a slice of cheese or a slice of bread. When we parked, I got an education on parking passes in Germany...
You're actually expected to carry around a little clock in your car and when you park somewhere that says it has a certain time limit, you have to set the paper clock to show the time that you parked there.

The woman that waited on us was pretty cold and when she finished preparing our order, she set it on the far end of the counter without saying anything and moved on to do something else. We were sitting there for a while before Bernd asked her about the rolls and without looking up or saying a word, she pointed toward them. As we were walking out, Bernd commented that she was Polish and that this was quite acceptable customer service in Poland. As we were walking back to the car, he pointed out a new trend in Germany, guerilla knitting, where people just start knitting around fixed objects in the streets as some kind of amusing joke. I had seen this around but had not thought much of it. It was kind of funny.

On the way in to work, Bernd talked a little bit about cultural and business differences from Germany to America. First, he described Americans as peaches and Germans as coconuts. While Americans were gregarious and opened up easily from the get go, Germans were much more reserved and "hard to crack," but once you did, they were quite soft and very loyal. He explained it from an evolutionary perspective...Americans had always been exposed to new people coming into their country and had to adapt to this kind of changing environment and ability to build relationships quickly to get along. He also mentioned how loudly Americans talk compared to Germans. On the other hand, Germany was much more crowded separated into many small sovereign entities for much of its history, where each group had to be wary of newcomers and other groups. As I had noticed already, Bernd talked about the straightforward and blunt nature of Germans, which I had found to be quite refreshing. He also joked that the highest compliment a German will pay is when you ask them what they thought about something they'll say "I can't complain."

We got in to the beautiful office, which had been a farm house and was now broken up into a small office park.
I got to meet Claudia, his receptionist as well as Dunja, a partner and Micheal, a manager. Dunja, Michael, Bernd and I went into the conference room to start the manager's meeting. After some introductions, I dove right in to my Conscious Capitalism presentation (making sure not to talk too loud - as I often do when I'm passionate about something). On my first day in Germany, a newsletter I subscribe to happened to have an article about the management crisis in germany, that basically detailed the low engagement numbers from a Gallup survey. Bernd had also sent me research a few days ago from a company called Edelman, a PR company that has been putting out a "Trust Barometer" survey for the last dozen years or so. A lot of the information was on leadership and culture issues that damaged trust as well as data on how to build trust dovetailed nicely into my presentation, so I had included slides from both of these sources in order to have some information that was directly applicable to Germany. They all seemed to be really engaged in the concepts, asking numerous questions along the way.

Afterward, Bernd was extremely positive about the information as well as my presentation. He commented that he wished I lived closer in town so that we could work together more closely. He also said that when the notion of hiring some more young trainers into the company had come up in the past, he scoffed at the idea and didn't think that they would have much to add, but that after my presentation he realized that there must be other young people out there who are passionate and able to make an impact. He even suggested that we collaborate on putting together some trainings and presentations in the future and suggested I come along with him to a meeting next week with a potential client because he was impressed with my knowledge and passion. Overall, I was pretty blown away by the praise considering the fact that he had told me how hard to please Germans can be. After the presentation and some discussion, we dug into lunch. Bernd took me on a walk around the grounds of the offices on a nice little trail with streams and little waterfalls.
One of the companies in the office park makes little glass animals as art and had them sprinkled everywhere along our walk. Kristine would have loved some of these little guys...
He also said that the grounds were built at a time when a romanticism movement made old structures and ruins fashionable, so several buildings had been built on the grounds to look like old ruins.

After lunch, they had to deal with some of the more day-to-day management issues and since it wouldn't be very relevant to me and they could get through their business faster in German, Dunja gave me a flash drive of files of presentations and trainings that they give in English to go over the content and edit their English. Its actually a win-win because as I'm helping them, I also get to learn about some of their trainings on leadership and change management and some of the assessments and frameworks that they use. I haven't got to it yet, but I even get to go over the "Working Across Cultures" seminar that I had wished I could attend when Lothar told me about it.

The day went by pretty quickly, then we left for home. On the way, we Bernd drove to the top of a nearby hill where a giant mansion turned hotel stood. there was a great view of the Rhine and Konigswinter (where the Konzepte office is) down below. Back when Bonn had been the capital, this mansion had been used for international meetings and conferences.

When we got back onto Bernd and Elke's street, all the garbage cans were out for garbage day tomorrow, which made me realize that somehow I had been here for a week already! I also learned the rest of the story about Bernd's frustration with garbage day. Apparently, each bin is collected by a different company and some bins are picked up every week and some every other, plus it changes seasonally throughout the year. For example, the bio material bin gets picked up every other week in the winter, but every week in the summer for yard clippings and things. To add another layer of complication, two of the four bins need to be facing out to the street because they are dumped by hand while the other two need to be facing the opposite direction because they're dumped automatically. He laughs at how German it is to over-engineer something that should be much simpler.

Once we were home, I decided I would try to go to the gym that was around a mile away to see if I could buy a two week pass. When I got there, I waited for a good couple minutes while two girls talked idly behind the desk, ignoring me. Eventually, one of them acknowledged me and I explained my situation. She said she would have to call someone and then called someone else after. Apparently this wasn't going to be as easy as I hoped. Eventually, she said that she would take my number and have someone call me tomorrow. I thought it was kind of ridiculous (since I would be paying them they wouldn't be incurring any additional expense) and I told her I would pay for a full month if that was the issue. I would have pressed further, but in the interest of not perpetuating American stereotypes, I let it go and went back home. I should have just walked right in the gym since they were ignoring me anyways. After that debacle, it was 6:30 and I was now running short on time until dinner at 7:30, so I mapped out a quick out and back route of 12km (probably 8ish miles) and hit the road. I'm usually terrible at pacing myself, but as I turned around, it was 7:00 on the dot and when I got back, it was 7:29. Not too shabby. Along the route, there was this awesome sign:
Nicht Hallerbach M├Ądchen? (No Hallerbach Girl?)

For dinner, we each had our favorite leftover from the past few days. For me it was the chili con carne with my new favorite hot sauce mixed in. Elke still gasps every time she sees how big my scoop of hot sauce is. After dinner, Bernd wanted to watch an old black and white horror film he had just bought, having originally seen it many years ago. Then we got to talking about movies and eventually I mentioned Saturday Night Live, but they didn't know what it was. When I explained, Bernd was reminded of some sketch comedy in Germany and put it on. The sketches are very quick, probably 10 to no more than 30 seconds, and they feverishly translated as much as possible. Some of it didn't need translation. It was pretty funny. Eventually, we turned in for the night.

On day two of work, Bernd had to go in early to meet with a client, so I made breakfast before heading to the office. I went through a bunch more training translations and even few neat teambuilding games that I might try out. As I'm going through their materials, its kind of funny to notice where the languages differ. For example, many german words are composites of two english words, so when they translate it, they put a dash in between them even though no dash is necessary. Bernd and I also talked a bit about what happens when there are several words in English that mean roughly what there is only one word for in German (or vice versa), but choosing just one of those words doesn't capture the idea and changes the essence of the sentence. There have been plenty of instances where the literal translation is essentially correct, but it just doesn't sound right in English.

When lunchtime came, we headed back home to eat then work from home in the afternoon. Around 6pm, I still hadn't been called by the gym, so I asked Bernd if he could call since their English had been shaky. After quite a long time on the phone, he was told that the minimum signup period was 6 months and that they didn't do free passes or day passes or week passes or anything like that. Kind of silly. So I was off on my running route again, getting home just in time to shower and have Babi Goreng. They have been on weight watchers for a month or so and it's a weight watchers recipe with pork, chopped up carrots and chinese cabbage and what I think was German Ramen noodles. The best part was the sauce. It was basically soy sauce mixed with tomato paste, two things I would never think to combine, but it was a simple delicious combo that I'm going to have to try out.

After dinner, we watched Round 2 of the first semifinal champions league game...Borussia Dortmond vs. Real Madrid. Having won the first game 4-1, Dortmond could lose and still move on. Whichever team had the most total goals won, but if they were tied, then the tiebreaker was most goals scored as the away team. So if they lost 1-0, 2-0 or 3-1, they would move on. If they lost 4-1, they would have extra time and then a penalty shootout. All they had to do was avoid losing 3-0. Both teams had an incredible amount of quality chances that really should have been goals, but 80 minutes in, it was still 0-0, and looking good for Dortmond. Then Real Madrid scored 2 goals in quick succession. Another goal and they would have moved on. It was a frantic few minutes, but eventually they prevailed. One German team is through to the finals and barring a complete collapse, Bayern Munich will secure their spot in the finals tomorrow as well! By the end of the game, it was 11pm, so I caught up on a few emails before turning in. Tomorrow is a national holiday, so my 2 day work week is in the books!

Posted by atbrady 17:39 Archived in Germany Tagged germany bonn working konzepte conscious capitalism

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