Friday, May 15, 2015

The working life with engineers: German engineers

So I don't want to be too negative here because 1. I do not think it is wise to complain about one's co-workers online unless you are deeply anonymous, 2. I really like everyone I work with, and 3. wait - there is no three.

But.

There are certain truths universally acknowledged and one of them is that there are cultural differences between cultures and German culture and American culture are not the same.

Let me give you a non-work example. SH and I were in Munich, waiting to cross a road. We didn't have the light, but there was no traffic at all. So we thought independently and crossed anyhow.

As soon as we stepped off the curb, a little old German man started to scold us. I do not speak German, but I know exactly what he was saying - he was telling us WE WERE BREAKING THE RULES and YOU CANNOT BREAK THE RULES!

My conclusions?

1. Americans look at the rule, evaluate the situation, decide if applying the rule makes sense, and make a decision. Sometimes, the rule does not make sense, in which case the rule can be ignored.

2. Germans say, "But that's the rule!" If there is authority to which one should submit, one submits. One does not question.

That little analysis is based on my personal vacation experiences in Germany and DISCLAIMER HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH MY WORK SITUATION!

Ahem.

So I was a little frustrated with a situation with a 1. German 2. engineer.

(Read: "But this is the rule and this is the logic so this is the outcome!")

I stomped away from my desk, grabbing my wallet so I could get a diet Coke. There was nobody else in the hall - it was only about 7:30 (this is Wisconsin - we get up early here). My boss and co-workers had not arrived so I had nobody to vent to, not that I would vent too much, as this might veer into the realm of "gossip about co-workers to other co-workers, including bosses," which is not usually a good idea.

At work, I have discovered - for me - it is best to leave out super-personal conversations ("my in-laws are drunks," "does this dress make my butt look big?" - although in the ladies' room one day, with one of the few other women at work, I made some comment and she, a Serbian from Bosnia, reassured me, "Is OK! Men like big butts!") and gossip about co-workers or the company. That means no, "Can you believe those jerks in Accounts?" and no, "Man the CEO's secretary is a beeyotch!" (Neither of those is true. They are completely made-up examples.)

With men/engineers, it is probably best just to stick to the facts, ma'am.

But I had to vent.

I saw this guy - someone I have never seen before and have not met. He ended up right next to me, so I did the only thing I could do, which was turn to him and say, "GERMANS!!!!!!!!"

"What?" he said.

"Germans! Honestly! Now I understand how they could start and almost win but then lose two world wars. They are so stubborn and they will persist but they have no imagination for when conditions change!"

He laughed and put his arm around my shoulder. "Be careful! My last name is [something super German that I don't remember, not that I would write it here anyhow]."

"Oh, my last name is [also German]. But I have enough Norwegian and Slovak in me to temper it!"

He laughed again. "I know. I work with the German guys on my widget project. It is - challenging. But be careful! My brother got fired over something like that. He is a mechanical engineer and was working for a German company that made widgets. They wanted to move some production to the US and just wanted to use the same production drawings. My brother tried and tried to tell them that they couldn't use those drawings.* The Germans kept insisting. My brother finally said, 'I can see why you guys lost two world wars!' They escorted him out of the building right then."





* I do not know why. I am assuming a mechanical engineer would not protest unless there were legitimate reasons.

2 comments:

Schmitt said...

Hm. Maybe the metric/imperial thing? Not that I know exactly what a production drawing is anyhow!

Anonymous said...

Someone at your work put his arm around your shoulder? I'm kind of horrified.