“Hammer” has nothing to do with a tool but is said of someone who is “cool”. Another word to add to my vocab as well as “Noi” (pronounce: noy), which is the Swabian form for “no”.
The following only covers work and play issues in very broad strokes.
How did I find the work application process? Not entirely surprising since I was already aware of the practices in Europe but I was quite amazed at a few things; here are the steps.
1. On your Curriculum Vitae (CV) – or Resume in North America – you must indicate your marital status and your age. This is pretty well standard for most of Europe.
2. The German equivalent of a Resume is a “Lebenslauf” (transliterated: the run of your life) and is not limited to one or two pages. Some can have 4 to 6 pages, once you’ve added your “testimonials” – which would typically be references from previous employers, people you contracted with and such.
3. You need to affix a picture to your resume.
So if I thought that having to give my age was going to work against me… I thought wrong. As a matter of fact unexpected work offers have come my way and now I have to decide what to do with them – considering the prevailing economic climate, it’s quite humbling; I feel privileged and this has caused many moments of praise and thanksgiving!
In this state work seems to be fairly flexible. At some companies one can work up to 35 hours a week but also part-time and organize the day to suit most people’s family needs, as long as the hours one committed to are honoured. Other companies might not be as easy-going, it depends on the industry. Two mothers in my office work mornings and leave at noon so they can be with their children. When a child is sick, it’s not a problem for the mom to stay home and catch up with work at a later date or use a vacation day. Of course – unlike North America where vacation days are few – if you have four to six weeks vacation a year, it’s not too painful to give up a day or two due to a family member’s illness.
The 35-hours work-week for some may have been due to the economic climate but a great number of companies prefer to reduce working hours than lay-off their employees. On the other hand, the part-time work could be equated to work-sharing. It has advantages for both the employer and the employee. Many women choose to work part-time in order to attend to family obligations – at least in this region.
One of my students mentioned that in this state people are more formal than in the state she lived in, which is to the north east of here. I was rather astonished because I was under the impression that most of the country was formal. I was told however, that there are vast differences from one state to the next, not unlike what I experienced during my year in Spain. I suppose one can draw parallels with states in the US and provinces in Canada but as countries are smaller here, it seems strange to have cultural and linguistic differences a mere 100 kilometers away.
A great number of companies are family run. Case in point, the school I teach for (since I’m contracted to work at company locations), has husband, wife and son team. Although not unusual in North America, I would say that the presence of family run businesses is much higher here.
What was news to me: in any application – not for work, but for public forms (government, hotels, etc) you are required to indicate your religion. That was a big surprise. In relation to my experiences in Spain, it is not standard procedure, and neither is it in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, according to the feedback from my family. I haven’t verified the other EU countries and Google didn’t help – maybe I’m not asking it the right question…
For instance, after a fender-bender where police were called for formality sake, I was asked my religion. Incredulous I asked the officer: “What does this have to do with the incident?” To which he sheepishly replied “I have to put it in my report – see, there’s a spot for it and I must include this”. Now I’m really curious and want to research the reasons behind the question.
It would be nice to receive some feedback from German friends and acquaintances, especially those living in other parts of the country, and hear what some of the work/play practices are in their region.
. . . and Play
As mentioned in an earlier post, week-ends are very important and everyone takes their free time seriously. Friday most companies close early to mid afternoon and you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone after 3:30 pm. In my English classes, someone always seems to be going on holiday one week or the next. At this time of the year many take a week off to go skiing, and a number stay home and just enjoy their time off.
Having these long week-ends or extended breaks certainly helps decompress and return to work with more energy (or so one hopes). I recall the shock to my system when I first moved to Canada and found out that just because a statutory holiday fell on a Thursday, you couldn’t just take Friday off too. These kind of long week-ends were not the norm; one week vacation was all you got when you started as a newbie in a company, and a 13th month bonus was unheard of – at least for regular workers, and this was decades ago. Not much as changed since then, while here working hours have decreased.
These long week-ends and extra month at the end of the year are not unique to Germany and are common practice in most of Europe. Spain of course has many more long week-ends, in some cases extending to a week, depending on the religious celebration, or saint that is being honoured. It is true that parts of Germany also have extra days around religious high holidays. I happen to be in one of those parts.
The topic of religion and faith however will have to wait for a future post.
Until next month, keep warm.