As a South African living in Germany, I am often asked what the differences are between life in Germany and life in South Africa. To be honest, though there are many answers, the small differences between South Africa and Germany are more entertaining to write about, so here goes.
Autobahn. The first time I was in Germany back in 2002 I was irritated by the huge walls next to the Autobahn every time I passed a town, and I wondered “What are they there for?” As a tourist I wanted to see the little villages and towns as we drove from Frankfurt to Eisenach. And then it came to me, the barrier was obviously to keep people from crossing the Autobahn and also to keep wild animals off the road. You can imagine what an anti-climax it was when I found out that the walls were there merely as sound buffers or barriers. As in South Africa we have a lot of pedestrians involved in accidents on the highways, primarily due to them crossing the road, which is not allowed-- for obvious reasons. In some rural areas broken fences raise the risk of livestock or wild animals being on the highways too.
Breakfast. I must admit that my first breakfast in Germany was a miniature culture shock: salami, ham, cheese, liver pâté, and what appeared to be raw mincemeat. I had to check my watch as I thought I had woken up at lunch time. The breakfast egg, coffee and toast on the table kept me calm and I ended up having coffee and toast. In South Africa I was used to usually having breakfast cereal and on Sundays we had a cooked breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, toast, sausage and fried onion and tomatoes.
Gardens. It took me a long time to understand who exactly lived in the small fenced off gardens with tiny houses on them. Initially I thought to myself that there were in fact a lot of poor people in Germany, as on the edge of every city I went to there were these small fenced off Gardens with tiny little wooden huts on them, some nicer than others. As I came to Germany during winter the first time, I really wondered how anyone could survive in such a hut in minus temperatures; I thought to myself that generalization ‘Germans are tough’ must be true. Subsequently I found out that these spaces were just gardens and only used in summer. Well, that was also strange to me-- having a garden that was not on the same property as your home.
Public Transport. Lastly, the public transport system here is really great in comparison to the one in South Africa. The South African authorities have been working relentlessly to upgrade the country’s public transport system, and I truly hope that it serves the needs of the World Cup visitor as well as being sustainable after the World Cup has ended.
After five visits to Germany between 2002 and 2005 I have grown used to and do not always notice the small differences that initially were so apparent for me between South Africa and Germany. These days it is only when I go back to South Africa that I notice the differences between Germany and South Africa, which is a little ironic!
Today in my strategy class we did an interesting in class exercise, whereby our group of eight students was split into four teams of two, where one student played the role of the ‘decision maker’ and one student played the role of an ‘advisor’. Each team was given the mutual objective of gaining points (shown below in the table). Each team was given two cards, a red card and a yellow card, and was able to gain or lose points based upon the decision that the team was to make. After having some time to strategize, the teams were supposed to pick a card and then all four teams revealed their choice of card simultaneously. Points were then given based upon the choices of the cards, and this was then repeated for about five rounds. There were five scenarios which could have been observed.
Card Choices Points given
Scenario 1: 4 yellow cards +25 for all teams
Scenario 2: 3 yellow cards -25
1 red card +75
Scenario 3: 2 yellow cards -50
2 red cards +50
Scenario 4: 1 yellow card -75
3 red cards +25
Scenario 5: 4 red cards -25 for all teams
The optimal situation, of course, would be for all teams to work together to ensure that everyone would get points (ie. 4 yellow cards means +25 points for all teams). I was chosen during the class to be one of the decision makers of the team. The time was coming to make my first selection and the result was not quite what I had expected. We witnessed scenario four with me staring at three red cards with a yellow card in my hand. “Hmm,” I thought, “I guess there are many lessons to be learned here.” After a couple rounds, my first realization was that everyone in the teams was willing to cheat. Therefore, I don’t think the outcomes of the next rounds were too much of a surprise; all the teams chose red cards so that no teams were able to gain points anymore but actually lost points. It might be easy to say that ideally everyone should work together so that everyone would have the opportunity to earn points, but in practice this notion is much more challenging than at first glance. The competitiveness of human nature often times leads us to want our competitors to lose; however, in this case, their loss meant my team’s loss as well. I believe the class walked out of this exercise with a valuable lesson that day, a lesson not in theory but in ethics. In my opinion this exercise was an illustration of the opportunities and also the dangers of ethical choices that business people make everyday, and this is a topic which merits much deliberation.
At the beginning of January it was finally time for me to move to Spain, after waiting to do so for almost my entire third semester. I have to say, though, that not everything about the change of countries was easy. First of all, finding a flat in Barcelona was interesting. The flats, and especially rooms in flat sharing, are usually not what they look like on the pictures I got send before visiting the flats. This meant that I had to look at several places before I found somewhere I liked and wanted to live for the next month.
Another problem I had was getting used to the different systems of universities. At my Spanish University we have to hand in homework in nearly every subject once a week, write papers and prepare presentations. On one hand it is a nice experience because the exams are only a fraction of our final grades which means that I will not have to study as hard at the end to pass the courses. Though, on the other hand, there are basically deadlines every day and it is a lot more intense to keep up with all the dates.
Although there has been a lot of personal adjustment from my part, after having been in Barcelona for a few weeks now, I am enjoying my time here. The weather is great; the sun is shining a lot. Also, I do have enough free time to go and do sports every other day. As for my cultural activities, Spain is a good country to go out dancing with friends, especially Salsa, and to have a glass of “Cava”.
Career planning has become a buzz term in industry and is currently one that is occupying a fair bit of my sub-conscious thought processes. For example, does the first company you start working for really impact your entire career? Well, if you think about it—yes-- and so does every decision, meeting, chance meeting, the way you walk around university, the people you decide to or not to talk to. These things impact your career in lost and found opportunities!
I am currently looking for sustainable opportunities and am in “search mode”. My own personal definition of “search mode” means actively looking for and informing myself about companies and possibilities out there in the working world. When a possibility looks like it could be viable, I read up and look into it in more detail; if it gets through that screening, then I have identified an optional opportunity. Currently I am trying to build up a number of suitable companies that I would like to work for (and that I think would hire me) and am putting them into my optional opportunities folder.
In the next couple of months I am going to have to decide where I would like to apply, and hopefully someone will want to speak to me. I am of the opinion that you should apply to work at companies that you want to work for and not ones that you in your field of specialization are expected to apply to. So I will be applying to companies that I am satisfied will offer me a complete package of career advancement opportunities, work-life balance, fair pay, enjoyable and interesting working environment and a company that will bring out the passion in me.
Geographically I have restricted myself to Europe for the beginning of my career (i.e. the first 5 years) so if an offer in Ireland, Spain, Britain, Scotland or Germany comes up that I think fits me and my family best, then I will take it and jump on a train or plane.
Once I have got started in the working world, I hope to pursue an entrepreneurial venture-- be it within a company or outside of a company, on my own or with a number or associates and partners. But nonetheless I will be ambitiously striving to achieve a high level of autonomy in my future career.
You may note I have not mentioned an industry and that is due to the fact that I have a broad generalist degree and think that I am not restricted by industry. As I see it, after all this studying, I should have learnt how to think, and hence should be able to continue to learn and adapt wherever I choose to go!
Leadership, Management, Organisation and Planning are words that frequently appear during the lectures at the EBS; however, theory and practice are usually two different things.
At EBS, we actually have the opportunity to acquire knowledge about how organisations work and how tasks can be solved. We can do this by participating in one of the different student initiatives, called Ressorts. Ressorts are centrally delegated and organised in our ?Studentenschaft?. Basically every student participates in at least one out of the 19 Ressorts, which differ a lot. The biggest and probably best known is called Symposium (www.ebs-symposium.de), but beside s that there are also groups organising the student parties or MAD (Make A Difference), which is engaged in several social issues.
One of the initiatives I took part in was SMILE (Students Marketing Initiative Linking Europe). We organised the 11th SMILE Marketing Forum in October of last year with the topic ?Marketing and its limits ? gewagt wie nie zuvor?. It was an interesting experience during which I saw how much work needs to be done in order to set up a larger scale event such as a congress.
Our work started about a year in advance. We had to choose a topic, find a date, start talking to companies in order to find speakers that had interesting and maybe even controversial views on our topic. Additionally we had to acquire sponsors, design our posters and flyers and think the whole day through in order to not forget any important detail.
Over the months our planning became more precise; we had our first speakers and sponsors, the first participants sent their applications, and our planning went into the final stages. Because our organisational group was made up of only seven persons, we needed some extra help for the actual day. Some of the greatest problems that we faced were: short-notice cancellation of speakers, helpers that could not make it, and rooms that were double booked. These challenges required last-minute creativity from our part.
Despite minor problems, the day turned out great. We had brilliant speakers such as Mr.Bräunl, the Marketing Director of BMW, and a lot of sponsors including Vodafone, Tchibo and Lindt. Attendees had many opportunities to communicate with other participants and speakers. Some of the talks were even interactive. Overall, I feel that the day turned out to be a great success, and I can only thank the others in the team and in particular our group leaders, sponsors and speakers again for this great opportunity.
- Wochenrückblick: Die ewige Exposition
- Wochenrückblick: Was das Eis uns lehrt
- Chinesisch für Anfänger - Part 1
- Chinesisch für Anfänger - Part 2
- Wochenrückblick: Die Unkalkulierbarkeit des Lebens eines Juristen als Wettervorhersage
- Chinesisch für Anfänger - Part 3
- Chinesisch für Anfänger - Part 4
- Wochenrückblick: Einen Moment, bitte
- Langeweile? Fremdwort!
- Was machen wir eigentlich? Also inhaltlich und akademisch?
- A few thoughts on searching for a specific Internship
- Die lieben "Tauschies"
- Buch? Skript? Bib? Wikipedia?
- Der typische Tag eines EBSlers I - die brutale Variante :)
- Der ganz (un-)normale Wahnsinn
- Der typische Tag eines EBSlers II - die „gechillte“ Variante :)
- Citi Group Business Knigge Seminar
- Hey everyone!
- "Woohoo, I'm there!"
- My first exposure to: the Cradle to Cradle design concept
- Introducing myself …
- The Amazing “New Philanthropy”
- Monday, Jan. 10th
- Dance 4 life …
- Tuesday, Jan. 11th
- Wednesday, Jan. 12th
- Ms. Orzala Ahshraf Nemat – More than a Leader
- Thursday, Jan. 13th
- Friday, Jan. 14th
- Back to business ...
- Neues Semester, neues Glück
- Business as usual
- Der frühe Vogel fängt den ... äh, die gewünschte Auslandsuni :)
- Und das ist erst der Anfang...
- Life@EBS... oder eben gerade nicht?
- Die erste nächtliche Arbeitssitzung an der EBS
- Getting ready for the middle country
- My Thoughts on Ethics
- Studentenalltag in Oestrich-Winkel
- „Pourquoi avez-vous choisi le Françasis?“
- Erste Vorlesungen und Company Presentation
- Introduction: Der Neue
- Das EBS Symposium 2010
- Reges Treiben auf dem Campus
- Synergizing Networking and Time-management
- Die Angebot des Symposiums
- Final Countdown
- Ein optimaler Start
- Networking Barbeque
- Die Sonne scheint!
- König Fußball
- Der argentinische Vize-Präsident und ich ...
- Opportunity Costs
- Symposium - unser „Erstes“
- The Turkish Night
- Imposanter Morgen
- Souveräner Schlusspunkt
- Gedanken zum EBS-Symposium (aus „Quietschie“-Sicht)
- Ein glückliches Team
- Reflections on my Master’s Thesis
- Career Forum
- Alltag @ EBS?
- Starting in China
- Class Composition
- What is “Green” in 200 words?
- First impressions
- Karlsruhe Business Masters Challenge 2009: Part I
- In Focus: Incentives
- Internship Hunting
- Karlsruhe Business Masters Challenge 2009: Part II
- EBS Bachelor Blogger: Maike
- Supply Chain Management at EBS
- The Path of a Leader
- Funding Options
- Karlsruhe Business Masters Challenge 2009: Part III
- Why I Chose to Study Abroad in Spain
- Getting Organized
- My First Week in Spain
- Strategy and Organization