Sunday, December 03, 2006

The joys of the German workplace

My experience of working in Germany is limited to one company and its not even a German company. From what I have heard from friends and acqaintances, my experience may not even be representative of the typical German workplace. But it is not atypical and goes a long way to show why I love working and living in Deutschland.
If you open the door to the cupboard in my office, here's what you'll find inside:

And here's what the bottom drawer of my desk looks like
Here are two pictures of my office, one of my closet with a case of beer in it and the next of my bottom drawer stuffed with empty bottles of beer.

Not that this is the norm within the company. Except for one other collegue (who also happens to be American), no one else has beer in their office. But the fact that I have beer bottles in my office is not something that I have to hide. Its completely allowed and accepted.
Its so allowed that the Coke machine in the basement of our office building

actually dispenses beer (Meckatzer is a beer from a brewery in Mekatz, a town nearby)

The tradition at our company at least is that every employee that joins or leaves the company must throw an Einstand (for joining) or Austand (when leaving) Austands generally involve a lot of drinking on company premises, which generally start during work hours. So in effect, the company pays us to drink on the job.

There's plenty of other things as well about the German workplace: Six weeks of holidays per year (but that's not so much if you count the vacation we're forced to take), we're only allowed to work ten hours a day (anything more is not counted towards overtime which I'll get to and if you get in an accident on your way home after working more than ten hours, the company is liable), and the best part: The company keeps track of the hours over eight that are worked. It can be taken as vacation or be paid out. As vacation, this can accrue quite quickly and lead to a lot of extra time off.

The other pluses of living here: One of the German responses to the oil crisis in the 70s was to build a lot of bike paths to make it easier for people to use bicycles to get around. For about seven months out of the year, I'm able to ride my bike in to work. Its a bit more than 10 km each way and that saves me a whole lot of car usage, not to mention getting a good bit of exercise every day. The weather is often bad though and it can get cold. So biking regularly does require some perseverence but its fun.

Are there only pluses? No there are minuses as well but for me, the pluses outweigh the minuses. The minuses: Tax rate is a bit high, especially if you have no kids. I'm paying a lot of money in social security and health insurance whose benefits I'm nost sure I'll ever get to enjoy. The country is aging and it can be seen in its acceptance and use of technology (a field in which I work)

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