Tag: Germany

Sunday Column (204)

This week I finished Kofi Annan’s autobiography. One of the closing sentences were ‘A Swahili proverb holds that “You cannot turn the wind, so turn the sail”‘. I like and dislike this quote.

On the one hand the proverb tries to tell me that if the wind is blowing in one direction, there is nothing we can do. On the other hand it says to change direction to make use of the wind. Then again it tells me, whatever the wind, just go with the flow, don’t go against it. Do you see where I am coming from?

I like to go with the flow. Enjoy having my sail in the wind and make progress. That’s fun and easy even. I also like to go against the wind. Stir things up, question rules and challenge people. I cannot just turn around and go with the wind. Not my style. Of course wind can never always blow in your sail, so sometimes you go through rough or unpleasant rides. Way of life. Am I missing something the proverb wants to tell me? Do I look too deep into it?

Anyway. Annan’s book was good. A good summary of his work and thoughts, challenges and successes. However, it seemed written a bit in a politically rather than personal manner. Guess that was to be expected from a man of his calibre.

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Then I had an interesting conversation with a gentleman from the Brighton area who, same as me, has lived abroad for the past 13 years. And his conclusion, after all that time in Germany, was that he can’t stand the British way of life. Just like me! Only vice versa πŸ™‚

When mentioning that to a friend from another country, I got told it is the same for her. This leads me, based on my small sample, to the following conclusion: if you voluntarily leave your country to adopt a new way of life in a different culture, there are two motivational directions:

– away from the current, soon old culture
– towards the new, soon daily culture

This leads, in my sample, to a love hate relationship with your current or old culture. I dismiss certain “German” attitudes and don’t like their way of dealing with things. However, in my case, I love the Britishness and culture here in the UK. Additionally, at least in my case, I find it nice to look back at my childhood and German values I was brought up with. This will always be home for me. But in regards to business or day to day stuff, I adopted the British culture to be “the right one”. Funny that. This would explain a lot of things πŸ˜‰

On Wednesday I attended a function, an event from a new potential hobby of mine. A group looking to help others in need, a charity if you like. It was a sit down dinner, discussion and to my surprise no alcohol. I really liked that. I attend another function next week and keep you posted on developments.

Thursday was a fun day. I got soaked going to the train station. At the train station the trains were cancelled or delayed by more than an hour. A train had broken down on the tracks just outside Hassocks. So I ended up working from home, getting loads of admin done, studying on the back of our sales training, exchange with the US office and general strategic stuff. I love those days. In the afternoon I popped out to get my hair cut and I spent lunch building “fire stations” with my boys. With Colin being “confined to quarters” with his chicken pox, he appreciated someone else playing with him. I ended up working much later than normal but I don’t mind that really.

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However, this week was slow. Not work wise but more me feeling slow and tired. My wife has a cold and I woke up every morning with a sore throat being really tired. So some bug must have got the better of me. Nothing major, “man flu” enough but not too bad. Just this tiredness and exhaustion….but I shouldn’t moan. With feeling physically exhausted there was no running. No exercise. Just a massage on Saturday.

On top of that our fridge is about to die. We aiming to change the kitchen layout to accommodate a non build in fridge, e.g. if we were to replace the one we have with the same dimensions we pay an arm and a leg for a low quality fridge. Not a long term sensible solution. So my wish to buy a nice mountain bike might have to be pushed back for a few months until we recovered from this expense. The joys. Life πŸ™‚

To conclude I had a fantastic weekend. I spent lots of time with the boys. Brighton, Sea Life, shopping, swimming, friends around for pizza. And I had another night out on Hassocks. It turned out to be a major piss-up so I was glad to leave when the shots were coming out.

Never mind πŸ™‚ Getting old.

Have a great week everyone.
Volker

Sunday Column (203)

This week was dominated by flying and associated chaos. Work took me to Cologne on Monday. With the snowy weather I was worried that we might not make the flight. We left the office in time, checked the websites and then arrived at Paddington to find out that the Heathrow Express wasn’t working. Hence we cut it fine and just made our flight using the tube. Wow. A bit too much travel stress for my liking on a Monday.

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Back we went on Thursday, thanks to an unannounced strike by security personnel, we spent 3 hours in the queue and had an hour delay before arriving safely in London Gatwick thanks to a fabulous Easyjet crew. I normally don’t mind travelling, and travelling in a group is always easier. Having said that, if you make your own schedule it is easier if you don’t run into problems. Chicken and Egg. This time we really worked well travelling as a team. The next bigger trip is with the family, this won’t be easy either. No question, Friday turned out to be a slow day. Having not slept Thursday night, I hit a wall around 4 pm and almost fell asleep at my desk. Last week was exhausting.

Three days of sales training paired with good catch ups across our European offices really motivated me. I haven’t actively been selling but got really keen refreshing some of those skills. I actually dug up my SPIN selling notes, Conceptual and Strategic Selling book again when I got home. The fun training paired with some booze and fantastic colleagues as well as a meeting with my cousin made this trip highly enjoyable. I am on fire. Push ups anyone πŸ˜‰

Chats about parenting styles left me reflecting on how you bring up your kids, how much time you want to spend away from the family and what is really important in life. How much trade off are you prepared to make between family and work, career and seeing the kids. It seems to be difficult to make the right decision and / or finding the right balance. I keep working on it. I missed my two boys this week and of course missed my wife. I believe with me living so far out of London that I don’t see the children during the week, I am just “home at night”. Assuming this still counts as being home, however if I was away like friends of mine in the consulting business working from Monday to Thursday away, neither me or my wife would like that. Luckily I am not. Having done the bi-weekly 1-2 nights away, I think that is manageable. This is a difficult one. If you haven’t seen “Up in the Air” with George Clooney, have a look for it. You don’t want to end up like him, or do you?

Having been back to Germany was interesting. I detach myself more and more from being German and thinking like a “typical” German. Of course it is not as black and white. However, still being able to speak the language, paired with English humour and elegance ;-), seems to get you a lot further in this country. A big publisher said a few years ago “I make my life more enjoyable through sarcasm”. Maybe another good way of putting it. Charming the hotel staff or the airport security works better using some less available skills Germans have paired with my German-ness. I love it…sometimes πŸ˜‰

Anyhow, you probably already noticed that I enjoyed this work week, spending quality time with people I like, I work with (and like) and have known for many years. Most of us have been launching my company in their respective country and mastered similar challenges. We have a lot in common!

At the weekend we had a nice get together with some local folk: parents of Colin’s preschool mates. Lots of booze, great chats and discussions. I am slowly but surely get properly settled within the community. I like it down here. Hassocks is great and I am trying to sell it to friends to move down here too. There is a 3 bedroom available in our road, and plenty smaller and bigger houses around the place. Newly builds and Victorian.

Sunday, finally, Colin came up with the chicken pox spots. So he should be finished with it just in time for our planned trip. I was thinking for a while that he might be immune to it. We made another pulled pork in our slow cooker and had a chilled out day, trying to get on top of some of the mail etc. Another problem when you are away for a week, you have loads to catch up on.

Have a good week. The weather looks warm and rainy. So maybe spring is in the air already? We shall see.

All the best,
Volker

Sunday Column (139)

Hey-ho,

Now a full summary of what happened over the last 10 days. We were in Germany for a week, driving over there in our “beast“. Of course we are back in time for Halloween of course πŸ™‚

Firstly, we drove the whole way over: the garage said that the journey should be safe and we arrived in Detmold (my home town) in good time and with two well behaved boys. Actually, we managed to get there quicker than anticipated, with only one break on the main land.

We also did some shopping. Winter clothing for Colin: a new jacket and trousers. I got an autobiography of Ben Becker: a German actor and singer I admire. Colin got some more toys, and Jen got some kitchen toys. The joys. We didn’t get much for Rohan though but maybe next time. He instead got more cuddles than ever from Oma & Opa, and to be honest from almost anyone he met.

I visited my old school teacher who is now the principal of my old secondary school. It was an enjoyable two hours chatting about life, teachers, working hours, differences of cultures and general chit chat. I really enjoyed it and was glad he took his time, as this helped me to link back to my school days. Thank you. It is interesting to reflect on school life “from the other side” πŸ˜‰ Also, as he lived abroad before, he could understand my thoughts about the fatherland and I recommended him to have a look for articles about Germany I wrote on here.

On Saturday we had a family reunion. Oma, or Ur-Oma, was there (she is now 91 years old) and most of the family from both my mum’s and my dad’s side. It was fantastic. Good chats, catch ups and I realised how important family actually is for me. It is good to see that most members of our family decided to have kids, to live a “normal” life and things are like they have been for generations. Of course everyone is an individual: different views about the virus Colin had, about kids leaving to play versus being supervised, extra food (or treats) to spoil the kids or just giving them what is being served. Different attitudes, ways and stages in life. But underlying there is a familiarity in the family. A “looking back” or “looking up” and admiration to Ur-Oma or grandparents in general who were the enablers, rich or poor, for a great big family and future for us and generations to come.

I never thought that I felt that way. Even just staying with my parents in Detmold, I realised how important Oma & Opa are for Colin & Rohan. For me to have 5 minutes to myself, for my wife to have a proper lie in, and for the kids of course to be spoilt. And Oma & Opa loved it too. Every minute of it. Meeting them for the first time in their own home. I believe we need to see them more often there. Family is great!

Sunday saw the reunion with one of my two oldest and closest friends. One who I met not short of 20 years ago in a holiday in Tuscany. The other one from high school who I shared a lot of memories with. Again, every day in Germany was like closing a chapter. Seeing someone and enjoying time with them. Talking about the old times, evaluating what one still shares after so many years. That is fantastic. It is like opening a book, reading the history in it, then closing the book and moving on. I don’t mistake that with “saying good bye”. It is moving on: more like opening a new chapter, a new book, and writing a new piece of history, the future. I guess I am all grown up now, the “Detmold Stories” are closed. They are the past.

On my list of things I want to do before I die, a Reinhard Mey Concert has been quite high up in the list for many years. So over a year ago, I got two tickets to see him in Bielefeld. Finally on Monday I went. Originally I wanted to go with a friend but he couldn’t come due to work commitments, hence I took my mum who truly enjoyed the evening.

Reinhard Mey is a German song writer/singer and I love his lyrics. Cynic yet pushy for a better Germany, a fairer place for everyone. He is coming up for 70 years old but his social commitments are still strong: he donated the evenings’ income to a local charity for disabled people: Bethel. He sang old and new songs, and some which I have listened to for over 20 years.

I loved it. I loved it because it took me back to a Germany I know, a Germany I identify with. Reinhard is my parents’ age and has similar views. He just expresses them differently. And he is right. He uses German sayings to critically examining the current state of politics and society. A very enjoyable evening, finding more closure with my Germany.

Regarding the list of things I want to do, whilst never really put in writing, I think going to visit Tibet and Lhasa as well as visiting the vine yards in South America are on the list; also, I would like to do something big for charity, e.g. making a sustainable difference. I am confident I pick that up in a later post at some point:-)

Tuesday we went to the local market in Detmold, then met a friend for lunch and another one in the evening. Quite a busy day. Colin and Rohan (and Daddy of course) had a cold with a cough and a slight temperature. The boys were sick too and gave us some worries. We took them to the doctor to get them checked out on Wednesday. Not being insured, or only through the European Union, costs you a small fortune for medications abroad. The joys.

But we got over it and spend another nice family day in Detmold with Oma and Opa before we drove back to Beckenham on Thursday. Again, only one stop but I needed to have a shut eye. The illness, the days in Germany made me tired, and I was glad that Jen took over to drive in the UK. Maybe flying is the easier option, we shall see.

Once home we had a nice take away, bottle of wine, nice shower….just good to be back home. The cats were waiting too.

That sums up most of my week. With both boys still being sick and me suffering from man flu, the weekend was quiet. Relaxing, trying to get fit and making plans for November. I don’t believe November is already here.

Have a good one.

Best wishes,
Volker

PS: If you haven’t seen it on Twitter, Ocado managed to properly piss me off on Friday. They called me 20 minutes after the delivery slot was due, then couldn’t deliver at times convenient for me. I believe after what we went through this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. We will try Tescos again and of course Waitrose.

Ode to my fatherland

It has been over 10 years when I left Duesseldorf airport in Germany to go to Aberdeen, Scotland. My ambition was to finish a degree in mechanical engineering and then come back to Germany to continue my career in sales. However, things happened differently.

I was born to parents that were themselves born during the 2nd World War. My grandparents hid from the Nazis as much as they hid from the Russians. My parents grew up feeling the guilt of Germany being responsible for mass murder. This guilt, this burden, was passed on to me. I guess with my parents born just at the end of the war, and me being quite a late child, I was one of few within my generation that had this burden passed on to.

In 2006 we visited my fatherland. The worldcup was on and people in my generation were cheering for Germany. I was impressed. The majority of people in my generation were born to parents just after the 2nd world war. They carried less burden and freed themselves by being able to host an international sporting event. It was cool again amongst Germans “to be German”. To be proud of heritage and “Germaness”. Not of course of the “dark shadow”.

When I lived in the UK between 2001-2006, I believe I missed a transformation in Germany in those years. A transformation of becoming a nation, and a new “profoundness of being German”.

But years earlier, the dark shadow was lingering over myself. It was not ok to say that you were proud to be German. I didn’t like or understand that. Why can’t a 20 year old boy in a country with a bad history, which happened over 50 years ago, be proud of his country? I didn’t have anything to do with Hitler and the lot. I am not a Nazi or right wing. I really was questioning how much I could bear to live in my fatherland if I wasn’t allowed to love it.

My fatherland had changed from feeling guilty to feeling proud. The new “burden-less” generation took over and allowed for a world cup that hosted not only soccer games but became a “coming out” event for Germans to be German.

In the meantime Volker became more British. More open to new things and I started to forget about my fatherland. I didn’t forget about the heritage, the black shadow, the salvation from it in my own terms as well as freeing myself from stigmas I was carrying. Between 2001 and 2006 I not only transformed to a new life but also closed a life and chapter behind me. I grew up and became me: in a new country.

The new me was proud to be German but didn’t like living in Germany any longer. I couldn’t imagine going back to a country where I wasn’t allowed to say what I felt. So for me, I decided to stay in the UK.

I became who I am today, and with my wife being British, I feel very integrated into this society. I like Britain, with ups and downs, and have two boys for whom we decided to grow up in England. I am at home in Britain, this is somehow my new fatherland. If of course one is allowed to have two fatherlands? I chose to come here.

I still have my accent. I still speak German whilst with a slight British accent πŸ™‚ And of course my English isn’t perfect. I also work for a German company. However, I see my current set up as being very international with a very experienced, international (German) boss: a unique setting.

It almost sounds rude that I don’t want to live in my fatherland any more: But I think it is a difference in cultures. Plus the fact that I probably never really got over the fact that my fatherland changed without me. That people moved on whilst I have been stuck in 2001. And based on that, I lost the attachment to Germany, the interest and identification. It is just another country. They now pay with a currency I never dealt with in my life before. It has changed a lot, and it changed without me. Maybe we can agree that both my country and I moved on independent from each other.

I am not bitter; I am not stateless or without a fatherland. Still, in my own rights, I value German heritage and love what I identify as being “Germany”. This “Germany” is different to most people’s Germany. These are pictures of my grand parents and their stories of clean rivers, green countrysides, honest, proud and hard working people.

Maybe people will understand that I cannot identify myself with the Germany that is any more. It must be similar to people after the reunification that lost their identity. I am surely not the only one.

In Britain I have found a new home, a country I am happy in. A country where my family and I can live and enjoy life.

Fatherland.

Best,
Volker

Sunday Column (128)

My head is spinning for several reasons this week. I had a interesting week with lots of things to think about, some work related and some private things.

Let me start with the London riots. I published my thoughts and fears, as well as my Buddhist thoughts on it too. Without twitter and the update from our @beckenham community tweet, I think I would have been more worried. As David Cameron said, no one should be fearful in his own home. I would have fought for my rights and safety of my family and community. However, I never thought I had to feel like I did in the UK πŸ™

This leads me nicely on to the next topic. For a while now I am debating with my wife and work, whether the UK is the country we want to work and live in. Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with both my job and the UK, but after 10 years, I am thinking, whilst the kids are still young, whether we should try a few more countries before we make a final decision where we’d like to settle and bring up the kids. This is a decision that is not to be made before next year for various reason I don’t want to go into just now and yet.

However, I met a good friend of mine this weekend; I met her 10 years ago in Aberdeen. We had different lives but both being German, we had lots in common and good conversations back then. For the past 7 years I lived in London, and she lived in Aberdeen. We both got married, we both had children. Now she lives in London and after a long 7 years we met again. And, as described above, she is in a very similar situation: she wouldn’t return to Germany, would like to live abroad for a while and then decide where she wants to settle. It was really good meeting her and her husband, to discuss dreams, thoughts and just to catch up on a long time we mainly spoke via Facebook πŸ™ A sad life social media plays, no?

On the note of social media, and I know I am going on a bit, we have Twitter that saved my sanity this week. Heello which is a twitter clone I signed up for, Facebook which is great to keep in touch with friends over time and distance, and of course Google+. It is getting a lot, but that is the industry I am working in, the thing I do. I love social and online but sometimes feel I should be more disconnected. Could my next 30 days challenge be to stop using Facebook? To not tweet? That would be hard. And amongst all the social media, there was one person this week that kept me sane, just by being normal and a good mate – in the real world too.

I am not sure what it is but I’d call it Sehnsucht which translates to longing. I am longing for simplicity without missing out on things and giving up what I enjoy. I am longing for freedom and peace without giving up the choices, loved ones and friends I have. I am longing for stability, planned future and a normal life.

I guess I am just a bit sentimental and think too much about life. It is silly because life is going to do what life is going to do. Simples.

Alles wird gut, ich vertraue Dir.

Have a fantastic week, I am looking forward catching up with some really good people!

Best
Volker

Sunday Column (126)

A Family Man in Digital Marketing – the title of this blog couldn’t have been more reflected this weekend. I finally, after long planning, managed to get a few friends over to my family home: friends from digital marketing.

One ex staff member and his highly successful academic partner, one ex colleague of mine, now coach, with his partner who runs a business in wine (so very interesting), and one close friend who I have not (yet) worked with and his partner who works for the big G. Three friends from different walks of life, all connected through the passion for digital marketing.

You can imagine we talked a lot about work and the industry, but more so about passion, the way the world and life is going, and what comes next. A fantastic day, fantastic people, a really good time. And, they all met with the family: my wife and the two boys. I couldn’t have wished for a happier day. Thanks guys.

The rest of the week, given it was my first week back from my holidays, went “balanced”. What I mean by that is due to Colin having trouble settling at night at the moment, I made a point of coming home early-ish most nights. I still managed to fit in a few meetings with friends, hourly catch ups, and a networking night.

The networking night, and I often don’t think too highly of those forced get togethers, turned out to be really funny, entertaining and great for contacts. I have to say that this was the best networking event I attended in a very long time, if not ever. I met quality people, got some leads but foremost met true entrepreneurs and people with a passion. Fantastic.

However, there was one little cloud in the silver lining this week. And that was communication, or mis-communication. This week made me learn one thing clearly: if you work across languages, which I often enough do, you have to be careful how to phrase things. Some “mini-teasing” phrases in one language can turn out to be quite offensive in another. Not a new learning of course, but astonishing in this case.

Without discussing details here, I want to use this topic to share some thoughts on language. With my wife being British (Scottish), we often enough have mis-understandings. Mainly because I as a husband apply selective hearing πŸ™‚ But often things are clear in my mind, and I just spoke to the boys in German, turn around and don’t know how to phrase simple things. Or I am unsure of certain pronunciations. That is normal.

She also noticed that when I call people for the first time, as I concentrate to say every word as correct as possible, my accent is a lot stronger than when I have a normal conversation. Just this week someone told me “yes, of course you have an accent, but if it wasn’t for your obvious German name, I couldn’t have told you where you were from”. Others of course say exactly the opposite, and my wife often enough doesn’t notice me speaking with an accent.

NLP states very clearly that everyone forms their own map of the world. Some put a high focus on language, some don’t. And, across languages (German-English) or foreigners speaking English together (German/English-Finnish/English-Spanish/English), we have even more problems, as we use a common language that is foreign to all of us.

Hence for important documents, or even for some emails, I get native speakers to review things. I know my weakness and make it a strength by getting help. Something you do with every other task you are unsure of, you get yourself some feedback.

However, the other, probably bigger thing, is that it shows me that I left German and Germany behind. I have left Germany 10 years ago. I have lived in Britain ever since, and English is my main language. And, I wish to believe, in a good enough way to be highly professional with the use of it. Partly, because I ask for feedback and I am willing to learn and listen. And, my map of the world is not as rigid as other people’s thanks to my NLP background and my sensory acuity.

I am ready to conquer the world (instead of taking over the world πŸ˜‰ ), ready to move up and on. Germany was a big part of my life, and I still teach my boys German. But my life is deeply rooted in the English language now, less often branching out to Germany. Whilst some of my roots might still connect to it, I am happy to let go.

I moved on.

Have a fantastic week, and if you speak to a foreigner this week, ask him what he thinks.
Cheers
Volker

Sunday Column (67)

Another week has passed without being noticed.
We came back from the wedding in Germany on Sunday night. On Monday it was bank holiday in the UK, so I tried to make the most of the time and the family went for a walk and chilled. I also felt very tired from the weekend, and noticed getting a cold πŸ™ But no whining….

On Monday night there was the last episode of Flash Forward, a TV series I am actually glad about that it is over. You get hooked in the first few episodes and then realise that you aren’t interested. But you cannot stop until the end. And the end wasn’t great.

Tuesday I went off to mexad’s first birthday party to Cologne along with my new member of staff. So it was a good trip, some beers and of course a lot of meetings and work. We came back late on Wednesday. Thursday I went to friends’ wedding in Essex. A lovely country / golf club atmosphere, lovely weather and Jen’s and mine first English wedding. We had to leave early and I drove, so we were home by 11 or so.

That was my week really. Friday gave me the opportunity to catch up on a lot of work and I was successful in getting a lot of it done. A day in the office which passed very quickly but got me on top of things. We have our new office lease signed and will be moving as of 1st of July.

Saturday morning I stole myself away to have a massage. I should go more often but the venue is very far away. The afternoon was under one motto: chilling! BBQ, boy, fun & sun. Desperately needed that as Colin’s and many other baby’s birthdays are coming up over the next few weekends.

The gadget of the week must be these cuff links: 4GB USB Flash drive to carry on your sleeve. At $195 a pair maybe too expensive for a father’s day present.

Ok, what a wonderful weekend, busy week and lots of things ahead. It should be a more quiet week – let’s see.

Have a good one,
Volker