9 months into what I am now calling my „02nd German experience“ and it´s about time I took stock of what I´ve achieved so far, what´s still to be done and what might (still) have to be done to stick to my objective.
Let’s take a look at what´s been done and achieved. Well firstly there was the 90 days integration phase. From a professional point of view it was something the likes of which I hadn´t experienced since I had worked in the German Black Forest a long time ago. It was a case of „You chose to cross a bridge, pal, and there´s definitely no turning back!“ or „There`s only one way to go now and that´s forward, so make it work “. A lot was learnt and a lot of “Savoir Faire” was necessary to come to terms with the switch in both cultures and mentalities but all in all the situation stabilized and I could concentrate on the second reason I came back to Germany: The Life style (or “le cadre de vie” as the French would call it).
I know it sounds funny even, strange that anyone might look to move, from France, to Germany to improve their lifestyle but it’s true. There are aspects of the life style that are appealing, OK I do miss the French “Cuisine”, and nothing made this clearer that our Christmas and New Year´s eve dinners (No oysters, No Foie Gras, No seafood platter… the list is longer*), but, cooking aside, the possibility of going on excursions and cultural visits is multiple, you just need to get organized and the number of times we’ve been to museums and cultural activities in 9 months is more than we ever did in our time in Grenoble and only the fact that being momentarily without a vehicle prevents us from going further afield to places such as Frankfurt or Heidelberg, although a trip to the Black Forest is in the offing (For St Valentine’s, if you please).
(*It´s true what they say, you do need to draw on all your culinary imagination to avoid falling into the trap of Bratwurst and Schweine schnitzel and if you can, you can actually enjoy eating out. BTW. At the risk of offending the honourable residents of Cologne I also, by far, prefer a Pilsner beer to the local “Kölsch” beer and not wishing to offend any American readers out there either , sorry guys, the Czech Budweiser Budvar is much, much better than the American brew.)
But back to the professional side of things. I really enjoyed the 60 to 80 days work following the integration phase because I was, apart from refreshing my German language skills, learning a hell of a lot of new technical skills and tools and basically enjoying the daily routine of acquiring projects, applying new tools and finding solutions but the last 2 weeks brought back to me the reason why I am where I am and that is because I wanted to reinforce certain technical aspects of my profile and acquire new knowledge to use for the next stage of this „02nd German experience“.
The last 2 weeks, to put it into a timeframe that’s end of January/beginning February 2014, has shed light on a couple of elements in my current situation and modus operandi that need(ed) thinking over. One is a feeling of what the French would call “Précarité”, I´ll leave you to look it up in the dictionary, about my present role (more on that a bit later). The second was I don´t have the same leeway as I did in my previous position. In itself this may not be such a bad thing as its teaching me to close gaps and function more efficiently within a given, smaller, perimeter over which others decide, most of who, in my opinion are themselves simple executants, with as little as control over the workflow as I have. The dilemma for me here is that, much as I detest the expression, this old violin is having to learn a new tune and play at a cadence that leaves you panting at the end of a 50/60 hour week.
Basically I don’t mind the 50/60 hour week but the thing I do question is that I don´t think all the 03rd party order givers I respond to master the situation any better than I do and simply deflect the problem down a level, yes in this role I´m further down the pecking order than I would prefer to be, but that was a decision I took and accepted (with reserve) when I started in this present job. And why would I accept such a situation? Because of what it came with, notably the possibility of learning new work methods, tools and technologies and of course because of the life outside of work, the real reason for coming to Cologne, plus the fact that I intimately believe in cosmic wheels and as I’ve seen before, wheels tend to turn, sometimes full circle.
Now all this would only have a sense if I can capitalize on it. By that I mean convert all this intense stress and frenetical activity into efficient*, sellable and immediately applicable skills! How am I going to convert all I´ve acquired over the past 9 months, and more, into a marketable product and couple it with previously acquired skills for the next phase of my „02nd German experience“?
(*Nota Bene. I have to mention that at the moment I am working with some highly efficient professionals and it’s both a pleasure and highly beneficial for me to be working with them, although if I had more time I would take a minute to study their motivations because being curious, perhaps a bit too curious sometimes, I’m wondering what leads them to stay and persevere in such an environment**)
(** the environment being what the French would call the “Leclerc Syndrom” )
Speaking of environments and job security I’m not sure where a sudden drop in activity would leave my colleagues but I do know where it would leave me, hence my current boss’s expressed surprise at the level of motivation I demonstrated during a pre-Christmas evaluation. But it’s a question worth posing. Can I honestly see myself where I am now in 2 years time? I’m not sure about that (and I even suspect my entourage aren’t either) and we all know its question of time and occasion… what’s been done before can be done again… it’s just a question of time.
So, let’s sum this all up. I definitely do not regret moving to this first stop in Germany, Cologne (Freudian slip: To my wife’s bemusement I will occasionally, but inadvertently, say Grenoble when referring to Cologne) there’s lots to do here and like a wise entrepreneur once said in LinkedIn: It’s OK to be on the lookout for new opportunities just don’t neglect the job in hand, for which I definitely do need all my wits.
Outside of work part of my objectives are to 1) complete administrative integration, and we all know that can be long and tedious, and 2) secure a patrimony , again something I didn’t seem to be able to do in France, and anticipating the question: What makes me think I can do it in Germany? Well to paraphrase a commercial on German TV, co-starring (?) Sebastian Vettel, that about sums up the culture here: “Ich muss sparen…schliesslich deswegen bin ich da” and in the meantime here’s looking forward to the forthcoming outing and subsequent blog.