Working in Germany

At one point in my career, I had a very special opportunity to work in Germany. It was only a few weeks at a time over the course of a few years, but it really opened my eyes to how different the Germans are from we Americans in their approach to the whole working environment. Which incidentally and coincidentally may be responsible for the fact that Germany closed 2018 with a record budget surplus of $65.8 billion USD instead of trillions of dollars of debt. They work hard in Germany. You get there on time and you leave on time. There is no fooling around at the water cooler or small talk. When you are at your desk you work. And, not to put too fine a point on it, Germans are very intolerant of those who do not work unless they have good reasons not to. However….

I am not saying everywhere, because I worked for a large US company that had offices in Germany, but at lunch time everything stops. You go to the cafeteria and you are served lunch, completely free, with several entree choices, many sides, all hot and delicious. I mean restaurant quality. I remember having white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce,  big joints of pork, or roast beef with gravy, sauerkraut, red cabbage, spaetzle, all the good stuff. Plus, if you wanted, you could have a beer! (That you had to pay for, but it came out of a vending machine and it was cheap.) Lunch is the big meal in Germany. For dinner you would have something much lighter. After lunch, you went back to work and tried not to fall asleep! (Which is why I refrained from having a beer at lunch.)

After work, everything stopped. We would sometimes go back to the cafeteria and have a beer, this is called Feierabendbier (work’s-end-beer) and is very common, or we would go out and get some food at a local restaurant. I was often invited over to colleagues homes for dinner. Everyone was super friendly and warm.

I distinctly remember mentioning to the group secretary Anetta that I really liked spaetzle and would like to make it when I got home. She said she would show me the real German way and invited me over to her home, which was in a giant farmhouse on a dairy farm, and proceeded to teach me how to make it. It is basically flour and egg dumplings, but her secret was to use sparkling water in the dough, which lent a fluffy light air to the resulting dumplings.

I sure hope that things have not changed there since the advent of the internet and working at home at all hours. The joy of working hard and playing hard with my German colleagues really was wonderful and I miss it.

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