I was elected by my company to represent our product at Hannovermesse in Hannover, Germany. Siemens and other industrial companies participate in fairs like Hannovermesse to promote their products, their services, and their company values to prospective customers. Since I’ve been begging my management for the chance to travel to Germany (a primary reason for me to work at Siemens), they finally heard my calls and sent me on a trip full of hard work and hard play.
Above is a picture of the Perfect Harmony, the Medium-Voltage Variable Frequency Drive I’ve been selling for the past two years. The Siemens team across the pond had a Harmony set up (with sexy blue lighting) to display the technology, and the whole first week of the trip was dedicated to explaining the benefits and energy savings to customers while trying to block competitors from learning more about the product.
Usually, when a competitor would come by the booth, they’d be respectful and we’d exchange candid conversation about the nature of the business. Though every so often, a group of Chinese people would sneak in to the booth and start taking photos and jotting down notes – a hallmark of the ‘clone’ technology we see very often in the Chinese market, free from patent restrictions. We did our best to politely shoo them away.
On Monday, I was surprised to have Vladmir Putin and Angela Merkel walk through the Siemens booth, accompanied by the Siemens CEO (the tall guy in the photo behind Putin). One of the important cultural differences I noticed on the trip was how different the security strategies are between the US and Germany. In the US, you couldn’t get within 1 mile of President Obama without being subjected to pat-downs, metal detectors, etc. I went through absolutely no security. I’m sure I was standing amongst dozens of secret service members with earpieces, but at no point was I subjected to a meaningless barrage of security measures like the US. I think the US seems to be more focused on the facade of security to impose fear in potential perpetrators, while in Germany, they seem to place higher importance on actual security.
I wish the TSA could learn a few lessons there.
Above is my bed in my Hannover hotel room. The whole room was very small, no larger than 8 x 18′, which was a pretty small box to spend a week in. Apparently, the Germans also do not believe in bedsheets, as a single pillow and comforter was all I was given to sleep in. Not too different from what I typically sleep in at home, but certainly much more conservative than any US hotel room I’ve slept in.
The hotel was across the street from several ‘discos’ and night clubs, including one salsa dance club. I went and poked around in the evenings, but despite my extremely extroverted personality, most of my extroversion seems to be limited to the English language and I had a hard time being very social through my broken German. But it was still cool to check out the clubs – they played mostly American music and they really, truly, party hard. Americans are more lazy, even when partying.
I spent the first week in Hannover, but on Friday evening I took the ICE to Nürnberg to enjoy the weekend and prepare for an office visit on Monday. This was my second bullet-train ride in my life, and it’s a thrilling experience seeing the beautiful countryside whip by. For the first hour, there was enough light to stare at the gorgeous green scenery of Deutschland in springtime, but after the sun went down, my work friends and I started discussing our cultural differences over several Hefeweizens.
I made good friends with another Siemens employee, Alex, who taught me some of the finer differences between German culture and my own.
That’s the view out of my hotel window.
Stretching farther than the eye can see, Nürnberg is a city of red roofs and churches, and although it was heavily damaged during WWII, it still possesses the history and charm you’d expect from a seemingly ancient European city. Castles and churches are common in Bavaria and make for some fantastic photography opportunities.
I went a little wild with the HDR this trip, as you’ll see below (click to enlarge).
Of course, I had to get myself some Nürnberg sausages, which is the traditional local cuisine. I probably ate more franks and sausages on this trip than Denny’s will sell this entire year. But they are different than the American sausages; they are packed with flavor and are a little sweet and smokey. As always, nearly every meal is accompanied by bier.
One day, I took a walk from the hotel to the top of the Nürnberg castle and snapped this photo. You can really tell from this photo that there exists a German law restricting the height of buildings, excluding churches.
Because I had developed such a great friendship with former Siemens’ interns Julia and Achim, they were more than happy to show me around their home city of Nürnberg. They took me to a free concert, walked me around the city, and organized a traditional Bavarian meal. It’s such a valuable experience to have the opportunity to make good friends with people from different countries and cultures!
On Sunday, I had the opportunity to rent my own car (don’t worry, I didn’t charge it to the company) and made an attempt to check off number 79. The only car that the airport had to rent was a little whimpy Peugeot, but damned if I didn’t get that whimpy car to 160 kmph. Sure, it’s no Audi, but was fast enough to stay on the Autobahn.
A friend recommended that I check out the city Rothenburg ob der Tauber, so I wandered around taking photos. I also stopped to pick up a few Geocaches and ran in to some other Cachers. Even though we really couldn’t speak each others languages, it was interesting to hunt for a cache together with someone from another part of the world.
I took some cool photos in Rotheburg:
Germany is filled with little towns like this one, it’s a photographer’s dream! I wish there was a little more green on the trees, but that didn’t stop me from making a few cool HDR photos:
After Rothenburg ob der Tauber, I took the whimpy car out in to the country side and shot some more photos. The sky was unbelievably blue (although these are a bit ‘touched-up’). The photo below was taken in a random field somewhere around here. Germany, understandably, grows a lot of barley and hopps.
The whole countryside is filled with rolling hills, cultivated land, and extremely blue skies. The day I traveled around was one of the first warm days they had this year, so luck was on my side for the day of exploration.
On the last night in town, I took a final stroll through town and snapped some last-minute photos. Nürnberg is an awesome city for walking, with a vibrant district full of restaurants, shops, and amazing architecture. I went to the office on Monday and met some of my colleagues before hopping on a plane and heading home.
It was a bit of unfortunate timing that I got my offer for Google while on layover at Chicago O’Hare on the way home from my trip to Germany. I’m in gratitude to Siemens for the opportunity to learn some important cultural lessons for several days.