Hein (fub) wrote,

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Joking with "Herr Kollege"

Monday was the first day of work after our three weeks off. It started off "good": I had to get up at 04:15 to get to the airport, to fly to Hamburg for three days. At least we got most of the issues resolved...

Whereas business in the Netherlands is all pretty informal (I am on a first-name basis with all of my clients), people in Germany default to a more formal mode of adressing each other. I kept getting called "Herr Ragas", but that does not mean that people are more distant in their interpersonal relationships. The lunch conversation is as personable in Germany as it is in the Netherlands. And whereas my company e-mail adress is my initial and my last name, in Germany the e-mail adresses also include the first names... So whereas you know the first name, you keep using only the last name in Germany -- and it's precisely the other way around in the Netherlands.

A funny thing showing the informal way that people treat each other happened on my last day there.

The client has a huge office complex in the city centre of Hamburg, with a restaurant to go along with it. There are four stations for four different cooked lunches. (This is something that took me some getting used to -- the Netherlands is one of the few countries where a cheese sandwich and a glass of milk is considered a full lunch. Not so in Germany.) Employees put money on their badge, and there are readers at the stations to deduct the cost of the lunch from their account. Of course, I do not have a badge or an account, so I got a blue meal ticket ("Essenkarte") that would also get me lunch.

On my last day, I selected what to eat and presented my ticket. Two people were manning that station, and they soon had put the food on the plate. But before I got it, the woman smiled broadly at me, and called me "Herr Kollege" ("Mr. Colleague"). She asked me if they hadn't told me that when I used a meal ticket, I would have to sing a song before I got my food! In my best school German, I told her that her day would not get better if I were to sing -- in the contrary! She laughed back and I got my food.
As I turned around (towards the dessert buffet, of course), she called after me, again calling me "Herr Kollege". She told me I had a beautiful accent, and wanted to know where I was from. I thought this was a wonderful way of finding out the home country of an obvious non-native speaker. Smiles all around.

I dislike business travel, but Germany is not the worst place to be.
Tags: scenesfrommylife

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