Visit to Charleston
This past week, I had the privilege of accompanying a General Electric (GE) technician to an industrial site in Charleston, South Carolina.
We were checked into a nearby hotel and spent several days on site. At the site GE is developing wind turbines in cooperation with Clemson University. This is not just some ordinary wind turbine, but rather they are working on what will become the largest wind turbine in the world. Its output will amount to 15 Megawatts! Active wind turbines in Germany “only” produce 2-5 Megawatts. This is a big difference.
(15.000.000 Watt… For example: a thermal power plant that produces 1 Megawatt of energy can provide power for approx. 1800 three-person households. This turbine could produce 15 times the amount of energy than the thermal power plant.)
My job this week is to test each of the turbine’s 35 meter conductor wires. Each of these wires has a diameter of 150 mm, which is roughly the size of a human arm. The test entails sending 1.000-15.000 volts (that is a lot of power!) through the wire for 15 minutes. Afterwards, I have to measure how much of the energy is lost during the process (for example, if there is an undesirable current path or in a worst case scenario how much energy would be lost if the current went through a human being). If the amount of energy leakage is very low then you can determine if the wire is in a flawless condition and not damaged.
Macon – another side of Georgia
Two weeks ago, both of our host families told us that they would be traveling during the first weekend in May and would not be around. Since we did not want to be alone, we decided to plan a weekend trip together.
The original plan: Annika’s host father would pick me up at the Marta-Station after work on Thursday. On Friday, I would accompany Annika to her company, Norcross, in order to gather some insights from another American company. We planned to spend the weekend together in Atlanta. Yet, as was often the case, we were confronted with spontaneous Americans who thwarted our plans.
One of Annika’s host father’s business partners, Chris, invited us to spend the weekend with him and his family in Macon. We had no idea where Macon was located, nor did we have any idea what we were getting ourselves into, but why not? It’s not every day that we get such an interesting invitation. No risk – No fun! (This would become the motto on many of our adventures!!
After we came home from work on Friday, we quickly packed our bags and were ready to leave on our road trip. This is when we encountered our first problem. Chris’s car had a flat tire. Thus, we had to wait till he could find a new tire (Yet, due to his strong negotiation skills it was not difficult to find a replacement). Sadly, the delay in our departure led us to getting stuck in rush hour – rush hour in Atlanta is no joke!
Even though we were stuck in rush hour, the drive was not boring! Chris conducted a series of phone calls and he thought it would be funny if Annika pretended to be his assistant and that she should greet his business associates in German. Apparently Americans love jokes like that… Yet, after the fifth phone call (there were many more) it became somewhat embarrassing for us and we were very happy to arrive at our weekend domicile after a driving time of two hours. Upon arrival, we explored our immediate surroundings, but soon after, we headed out for dinner. We dined at the sports bar of a nearby country club. We had high expectations for the meal, but we were disappointed. The food tasted good, but it was dripping in fat. It was unusual to see an American meal prepared in such a manner. Furthermore, the meal caused us to have stomach aches the rest of the evening. The next morning we hoped to find the ingredients for a delicious breakfast. Sadly, there appeared to be very little food in the house. It became clear to us that this family rarely ate at home.
The products shown above were the only food and drink we could find. It must be said that cereal without milk does not really constitute a proper breakfast… 😉 Finally, Chris informed us that we had some work to do. He was considering buying some real estate and he wanted us to come with him to inspect the properties. After the inspection, we could go to a restaurant and get something to eat. This put us at ease, because we were still hungry – and everybody knows that it is difficult to work on an empty stomach. Once the inspections were over, we were very happy to have a lunch break. Chris recommended that we eat at “the best hot dog place in the area”. It was called Nu-Way Weiners (No, we did not misspell Wiener; the owners wanted it spelled like that). While ordering, we once again hoped that we would receive a delicious meal. Since, we were curious about the food at the restaurant, we ordered a little bit of everything. Sadly, our (lofty) expectations were once again disappointed. Apparently, the people who live 80 miles southeast of Atlanta have strange taste buds… Why else would anyone want a hot dog with a red sausage in it?
After work, we had time for “15 minutes of speed shopping”. We asked Chris to drop us off at a nearby shopping center, so that we could buy a couple of things. Of course, he said yes and brought us to a Walmart, because they have such a large assortment of products. Once we arrived at the Walmart, he said “I’ll be back in 15 minutes”. We were not expecting to have such little amount of time, because Walmart is a huge store and we could have spent several hours there looking at the different products… Clearly, shopping is quick business for Americans. Nonetheless, we able to purchase some breakfast products for the next couple of days. That evening we tried a third time to find a tasty American meal. This time we ate at a restaurant located on the shore of a nearby lake. In order to avoid making a mistake, Annika ordered the dish that was recommended to her. My choice was a little more courageous, as I ordered a dish with salmon. Surprisingly, both dishes were good choices and we wholeheartedly enjoyed our large meal. We were so full that we were unable to eat dessert. Apart from our delicious dinner, the highlight of the evening was a country music band playing live at the restaurant. The band was able to create a very cozy atmosphere. Furthermore, it was a chance for us to experience a real “redneck-party” (this is how our host described it to us).
For our last day in Macon, we had planned several beautiful excursions, but we were unable follow through. Americans are often quick to change their plans. Instead of an excursion, we went brunching with Chris’s wife, Leigh, at the nearby country club. Yet, this time we did not eat at the sports bar, but rather at a nice restaurant. At the restaurant we were able to eat delicious pancakes. Afterwards we accompanied Leigh for a drive through downtown Macon. It looked exactly like the American towns you see in movies. Sadly, there are many problems in Macon. In particular, Macon has a problem with gangs. Leigh works as a lawyer for a youth welfare office and she explained to us how gang violence has had a negative effect on the lives of people living in Macon. It was an interesting, but also shocking experience to drive through these neighborhoods. Atlanta also has such neighborhoods, but we never saw them. After our drive through downtown Macon, we were relieved to get back to a safer neighborhood.
Sunday morning we returned to Atlanta or rather Alpharetta. Annika and I spent the rest of the day relaxing on the terrace, enjoying the sun. While relaxing, we were able to let the impressions from our trip sink in.
Annika & Barbara
It is unbelievable, but half of our time in the Unites States is already over…
Here is a short overview of all of the events that took place during the last weeks:
Two weeks ago, we were able to attend an exclusive event near Atlanta. Thanks to an invitation from John Lundeen were able to attend the Steeplechase! It is customary for women to dress up with fancy hats. Men, on the other hand, need only to wear Khaki pants and button-down shirts.
The Steeplechase is a popular event for chit-chat and to pick up gossip. The race track is surrounded by tents sponsored by local companies. Thus, many of the spectators are more interested in talking amongst themselves than watching the horse races. Our group had lots of fun. We were able to eat at a “Southern BBQ” and place bets on the various horse races. None of us made any big winnings, we only placed a bet of 1$ per person, but placing the bet made the race a lot more interesting…
The Steeplechase was not the only highlight we had these past weeks…
One week later, we had several events planned. Saturday we decided to go to the Inman-Park-Festival. This is not some ordinary festival, as we are accustomed to in Germany; rather it is a block party. The festival is a weekend long affair and is organized by the whole neighborhood. The festival is huge and organizing it is no easy feat!
The Inman park parade was the highlight of the festival. It is very similar to our carnival processions. From the German perspective, we found it somewhat strange that the parade was also promoting an upcoming election. Yet, the atmosphere around the parade was unique and the creative costumes and presentations made this event an unforgettable experience.
The Inman-Park-Festival was not the only unforgettable experience. The very next day we had another exciting event on our schedule: The Thank-you-party on the roof of the 05-Building in Buckhead (a district of Atlanta).
This building has a special importance for Joachim and Petra Herz (the founders of the Joachim Herz Stiftung, who made it possible for us to come to the United States). This is why, it was chosen as the location for our party. At the party, there were 50 guests from Germany and the US. We all came together to exchange ideas and experiences concerning the “Azubis in die USA” pilot project. Guests included John Lundeen, Teresa Pastore and Nadine Schubert. John, Theresa and Nadine were instrumental in supporting the project on site in Atlanta. Let us give them a big thank you for their engagement in the project and their help making this adventure possible!
After the party, the weekend came to a close, but we did not indulge ourselves with a break in the action. The very next morning, we had to meet at 8 am for a trip to the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga. Our departure was delayed, because our driver, Dr. Schmidt, had to familiarize himself with the automobile that he had rented for the day. At 9 o’clock, we were finally on the road for a 2-hour trip to a different state: Tennessee!
Upon arrival we were overwhelmed by the size of the factory
During a 90-minute tour of the factory premises, we gained an insight into how the VW Passat is assembled. After our tour we met several Volkswagen apprentices to exchange information and impressions on the vocational systems in the US and Germany. This was really interesting. American apprentices, who work at Volkswagen, rotate between working 4 months in the factory and 4 months in a college-level program (the campus is located directly on the factory premise). They only receive financial compensation for the 4 months they spend working in the factory. In order to be eligible for this program you have to be at least 18 years old. It was noticeable that many of the apprentices are much older than us, because most of them spent time at college or already finished a four-year degree program. Thus, the Americans were very enthusiastic about learning about the German system, because it is very different.
Last but not least: a picture of the most extraordinary pizza box we came across so far:
It is not surprising that everyone here talks about the digitalization of society!
We look forward to the next four weeks,
Barbara & Annika!
The American Work Life
Apart from the countless recreational possibilities to spend our time in Atlanta, we also had to make time for something else than leisure activities: The American workplace.
From the very beginning of our American adventure we were confronted with this harsh reality. Instead of a 36-hour workweek in Germany, in America we had a 40-hour workweek. On average workers in the United States work a lot longer than in Germany. They might not be as effective as we are, but they work longer.
Currently, I work for Hofmann Services, a personnel service provider. Hofmann Services offers companies support in the placement of temporary employees, permanent employees and on site management. The work at Hofmann enabled me to gain insights into application processes, selection processes, customer acquisition, customer relations and much more. Furthermore, I learned a lot about US employment law and US staffing regulations. This was a large part of the job, because these laws and regulations were important for our everyday work. It was important for me to get acquainted with this subject matter, in order to be prepared for various workplace situations.
For example, job applications in the US look a lot different than in Germany. Personal information, like date of birth, race, sex and marital status are not allowed in the application. It is also not appropriate to include a picture of yourself in the application. The reason for these omissions is that Americans are very sensitive to accusations of discrimination. Applicants must be selected on their qualifications alone. As an employer you have to be very careful what kinds of questions you ask the applicant. Luckily, my supervisor gave me a helpful document: Slide Rule of Legal and Illegal Pre-Employment Questions. With this document, it is easy to find out which questions are legal to ask and which are discriminatory. I was told that several prominent companies have had their reputations tarnished for not adhering to anti-discrimination legislation. It can be very damaging to be sued for discrimination. There are no fixed penalty guidelines, thus large corporations have been forced to pay six figure (or more) settlements for committing discrimination in the past.
With this background information, I started working on my first project (very carefully). My job was to find suitable applicants for one of our customers. The first step was to post an advertisement on a job exchange site. The advertisement received a lot of attention and we received a great number of applicants. The next step was to choose qualified applicants that met the needs of our customer. After I choose several suitable applicants, I had to contact them. This was at first a difficult task. I had to speak English on the phone and the extent of my English language phone skills were listening comprehension exercises. In school, if I did not understand the exercise then I could just leave it blank, but in a real phone conversation that is impossible. Yet, I had no choice. During my first phone conversation, I was nervous. I explained my situation to the applicant and asked them to bear with me. I spoke slowly and it went better than expected. In fact, we had a pretty good conversation. Being open and honest is always the best course of action.
First work, then play or in this case your wage. It was surprising to me that most employees do not receive a monthly wage transferred to their bank account, but rather they receive weekly checks that can be paid out in cash. This is due to the fact that some employees do not have a bank account. Furthermore, many Americans prefer to have their wages paid out in shorter intervals, because they have trouble making ends meet with the amount of funds they have at their disposal. Finally, there is another way to conduct payments: Many Americans transfer their income to their credit card, in order to spend their money. In the USA everything is paid with a credit card, even the smallest purchases.
Vacation entitlement is also quite different in America: In the first year of employment, employees usually do not have any vacation days at all. In the years thereafter, the average employee only receives 12 days of vacation per year. In cases, where an employee has been with same company for decades then they might receive up to four weeks of paid vacation. Personally, I find it inconceivable that there are not more complaints about the lack of vacation days. The American mentality is just different. If you want certain privileges, you have to earn it.
There are also less holidays in America than in Germany. There are very few public holidays, like Independence Day on July 4, where no one works. There are some companies that are closed on holidays, like Good Friday, but they do this voluntarily. Furthermore, many of the American holidays are not religious like in Germany, but rather they commemorate historical events.
Another thing that I learned about was At-Will-Employment. This mean that an employee can be terminated at any point and for no reason at all. Conversely, it means an employee can quit their job at any time. They do not even have to inform their boss. They just do not come back.
Sick days are also not paid. Thus, if you have to stay home, you lose your wages for the day. Furthermore, medical care is very expensive, which is why most people try to avoid going to the doctor or a hospital.
The atmosphere between co-workers seems to be more laid-back than in Germany. There is no difference between “Du” and “Sie”, which means it is possible to speak more openly with colleagues and the management.
Sadly, my adventure in the USA is coming to an end. I will be returning to Germany on May 1, which is why I will enjoy my last hours in the peach state even more.
Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority
Marta is the only way to get from point A to point B without a car. In most other cities, the government is responsible organizing public transportation, but in Atlanta the private sector runs Marta. The consequence being that a monthly pass costs 95$, which is quite expensive. Despite the expensive tickets, the quality of Marta is not close to the standards of German public transportation:
- In all of Atlanta, there are only 4 train routes. Two of which travel in the same direction.
- The waiting time for a train in on average 10 minutes.
- The train routes form a cross. One route goes North to South and the other route goes East to West. If you do not live near the train routes, you have to take the bus.
- Buses never come on time.
- Sometimes a trip might take more than 45 minutes, even though with a car it would only take 15 minutes.
This is the reason why everyone who has a car also use it. Thus, the people who use Marta are mostly people with lower incomes (except for travelers heading to the airport). The people with lower incomes are often African Americans and thus it happened on occasion that I was the only white person in my section of the train. It was a new experience for me (with the color of my skin) to be in the minority.
In every big city, you see some strange people using public transportation. The same is the case in Atlanta. There were times when I would like to have taken a picture, but I decided against it for fear of rubbing someone the wrong way. Nonetheless, I will try to describe to you the most interesting discoveries that I made:
- Mister Biceps: When I have to work the early shift, I always take the train to “Indian Creek”. Thus, I am standing at 6:30am on the platform of the intersection “Five Points”. While waiting there, I always see the same people in the exact same position. First, I see a Mexican woman in hospital garbs and then I always see an overweight African American police officer with horn-rimmed glasses. The police officer reminds of a famous actor. Finally, Mister Biceps shows up. This young man does his morning workout routine on the platform. While listening to music with his earphones, he runs back and forth carrying his backpack as a barbell. We does the same moves over and over again. Apparently, he listens to the same song repeatedly, because his moves are always the same. Then he drops his backpack on the ground and does a dance performance, where he first thrusts his fists in the air. Then he pretends to dust dirt off his shoulders, while swinging his hips from left to right.
- The Bunny King: This man is constantly talking to himself, but what most stands out is his extravagant outfit. He wears a red velvet bathrobe over his sweat suit. On his head, he wears a crown with countless colorful plastic diamonds. He also has plastic diamonds attached to his hemline. Finally, his crown is complemented with two bunny ears.
Here are pictures of two advertisements that I took in an empty train:
Other Counties – Other Kitchen Utensils
Well since it was Easter, we decided to try our luck and bake a cake in the kitchen.
We opened up a cookbook and much to our surprise, we were confronted with the fact that the measuring system in America is quite different from ours in Germany. The Americans use:
Cups, tablespoons, teaspoons and Ounces to measure the ingredients.
Our cake was not a masterpiece, but it was made with love!
I have never tasted a cake so sweet!
The top layer was covered with a thick layer of frosting. The frosting consists of confectioners’ sugar, Butter/Margerine and potentially food coloring!
… To each his own
Lake Rabun – An Unforgettable Trip
We learned a while ago that Americans are very friendly and courteous. Nonetheless, we were very surprised when Barbara’s host family invited her to spend the weekend in their house on Lake Rabun and that she could bring someone with her. We had no choice but to accept such a gracious invitation.
We met up Friday evening at the Marta station, put our luggage in the car and off we went. It was time to get out of the city and head to the countryside.
After driving an hour and a half, we reached our destination. The car parked in front of a typical American vacation home located directly on the lake. It also had a boathouse. We did not have time to unpack our luggage. We put the luggage in the house and went for a walk.
We had dinner at a pizzeria in a nearby village. The “small” pizza was 15 inches large (approx. 35cm in diameter) and it only cost about $15!
After dinner, we went to the boathouse. There we relaxed, while gazing at the clear starry sky. Not long after, overwhelmed by many new impressions, we went to sleep.
The alarm clock woke us up early, so that we could spend as much time as possible enjoying ourselves. After breakfast, we took a long kayaking trip. 30 Minutes into the trip, Sandra became aware that kayaks can tip over easily. Since, the outdoor temperature was 28 degrees; the surprising trip into the water was not the end of the world.
When we got back to the peer, we decided to take a break. Luckily, there were some lounge chairs on the peer for us to lie down in.
Right before we fell asleep lying in the sun (which would have been a bad idea due to the strong ultra-violet radiation), we became hungry and decided to flee the midday heat and thus we were able to prevent a painful sunburn. Yet, the weather was so beautiful that we decided not to stay inside for too long. Therefore, we were very happy when Barbara’s host father asked us to join him for a boat ride. Who would refuse such a great offer?
As we sped across the lake, we were able to get a look at the other large villas surrounding the lake. Whoever has a house here must be wealthy (or they were lucky).
The two days we spent at this unique place flew by too quickly. Since our trip to Stone Mountain Park was planned for Sunday, we had to return to Atlanta Saturday evening.
On the drive back, we stopped at a Mickey Piggs BBQ restaurant. There we had a typical American barbecue meal before returning to the big city.
All told, we spent a wonderful weekend at Lake Rabun that will not be easily forgotten.
See you soon,
Sandra and Barbara
Hiking in the Smokey Mountains
Last Friday, Philipp asked me what I had planned for the weekend. I told him that I wanted to go hiking in the Smokeys. If you compared the altitude of Mount LeConte versus the surrounding area, it would be the highest mountain in the Eastern USA.
2020 meters compared to the 394 meters of the surrounding area. The 11 miles (18 kilometers) hike to the summit is not easy. It is a steep, but worthwhile climb.
I only decided to go on the hike one day in advance, which was a pretty spontaneous decision for my standards, but Philipp’s decision to come with me was really spontaneous – He decided to come along 4 hours prior to departure.
First, we had to go to a camping equipment store in order to get a mattress and a sleeping bag. Then we were stuck in a traffic jam, which led to our late arrival in Cherokee (North Carolina). By the time, we set up our camp it was 11pm. Then we went to sleep and did not wake until 6am the next morning.
Mount LeConte is in Tennessee, which was only 10 miles away from our camp. It was definitely worth it, that we arrived the night before.
On our way to the summit, we were all by ourselves, but on the hike down, we ran into several groups heading towards the summit.
It definitely paid off to get up early.
Stone Mountain Park
Our second weekend in Atlanta is already over. Unbelievable!
This past weekend, we took a trip to the famous Stone Mountain Park.
We were picked up at 8am with the shuttle. Scott, our driver, picked everyone up from his or her home. It was exciting to see where and how the other apprentices were living. Since, we are spread out all over Atlanta; it is not easy to visit each other.
At 10am, we reached the park. Before heading up the mountain, the coordinator of the trip, Irene from GCIV (Georgia Council for International Visitors) explained to us what we had scheduled. Some of us decided to take the Skyride up the mountain, while others decided to take the walk-up-trail. Once, we arrived at the summit, we had an amazing view of Atlanta’s skyline. Some days you can even see all the way to the Appalachian Mountains.
Then we headed back down again. On the way down, everyone took the trail. The trail is not easy to climb down. Furthermore, everyone was sweating profusely because of rising temperatures.
We were tired when we got to the bottom, but were rewarded with a typical southern barbecue for all of our efforts. If you think barbecue is similar to “grillen” in Germany, then you would be sorely mistaken. BBQ means that the meat is prepared in a pit or a special oven, where it slowly cooks at a medium temperature. Typically, you are served wheat bread, baked beans and various sauces with the meat. Along with the food, you get sweet ice tea (more or less sweetened black tea) to drink.
After we ate, we had the chance to explore the park by ourselves. Irene recommended that we go to the 4D cinema. There we were able to watch a trailer for the film “The Journey 2”. Since most of the film takes place on an island, with lots of water, we got wet from the special effects. It was like we were in the middle of the action. Refreshed, we went to the next attraction: A glazier’s workshop. There we could see how a glazier makes vases or figurines out of glass. Finally, we got on the scenic-railroad from the 1940s, which travels for 5 miles around the mountain. For the most of us, this was last attraction of the day, because our group was scheduled to depart at 4pm.
Luckily, I was able to stay longer, because I was with Ben, Anita and Brandon’s host parents. Thus, I was able visit the obstacle course SkyHike. Our entrance tickets enabled us to visit all attractions for free. I had the chance to overcome various obstacles on three different levels and heights. The course led to heights of 3.7 m to 12.2 m.
After such a great day, we decided to spend the evening at a special restaurant: The Vortex in Little Five Points.
From the outside, it looks spectacular. Furthermore, it is one of the best burger restaurants in the city (which I can confirm!).
This is how another exciting weekend ended. Unbelievable!
The only problem? Several members of our group got a sunburn. Yet, looking at the weather report from Germany, where there is no sun to speak of, it makes easier to bear the pain.
Inside CNN Tour
The First Weekend
Instead of writing, I thought I would let the pictures do the talking for me. On Saturday, we planned a bike trip through Atlanta, which seemed strange, but it turned out to be a worthwhile endeavor.
Afterwards, some of us went to Piedmont Park to enjoy the evening.
On Sunday, we visited the CNN Center and the world of Coca Cola. The two most famous attractions of the city.
How do you like it in Atlanta?
I have been asked this question repeatedly over the past few days. What should I answer? How can I communicate all these impressions? Where should I start? Where should I stop?
One of my first memorable experiences had to do with my supervisor Emily. She wrote me an SMS that she was waiting in the parking garage of the Marta station in a white Hyundai SUV. I was Naïve. I thought – no problem. The SUV would stand out. Haha! In the garage where we were meeting, there were at least 20 SUVs! Almost all the car are SUVs, everything is so big!
One of the things that we all noticed was the friendliness and helpfulness of the people of Atlanta (if they had not been helpful, we might never have gotten to our apartments, nor found the Marta stations). It feels strange to be constantly asked how your day was or how you are feeling, especially coming from Germany. Yet, I do not want to be impolite, so I just start talking – About the weather, food or where I am from.
Atlanta is often described as a melting pot, which I can confirm. There are few people who were born in Atlanta, who still live there. This morning I spoke with the driver of my shuttle bus using a mix of English, German and French. It was really amusing!
There are many small differences between America and Germany. It starts with the electrical outlets, that upon closer examination look like a smiley (they also have a lower output). Even showering was difficult (how do I turn it on and get warm water?). Then there are the beds that are much higher than the German futons. Some of us were afraid to fall on the floor.
Apart from the different living conditions, there are also other differences, like going to a restaurant. With every drink, you get a scoop of ice cream. The air-conditioners run constantly. Moreover, very important, everything is to-go. Even drinks that you were unable to finish can be taken with you when you leave.
Once you overcome all the obstacles and get to work (after a drive through rush hour, with 7 lanes and people passing on the right side). The keyboard is a little different, which slows down my typing. Yet, practice makes perfect. The dress code is also a little more conservative than at home. We always look forward to casual Friday.
We successfully finished our first week and are looking forward to our first weekend. Just as Barbara described, we are having an exciting time with many interesting impressions!
Looking forward to having more!
Before I forget: One thing is like home. Bavaria Munich fans are everywhere.
The Weekend is coming!
After successfully completing our first two workdays at our companies, we are ready for our first weekend in Atlanta!
We have a lot planned. Tomorrow we are going to take a bicycle tour through Atlanta and on Sunday, we will visit the CNN Center, possibly the World of Coca-Cola, and the aquarium. On our expedition through Atlanta on Saturday, I hope to see many interesting sites. Yet, to be honest, I cannot imagine biking through the city. The U.S. is not known as a nation of bicyclists and you get strange looks if you walk more than 500 meters ;). I just hope that American car drivers are considerate of bicycling tourists. I am hopeful that we will see some hidden tourist attractions that we would not see if we were traveling by car or taking Marta.
Germany guys listen up. Let us start the weekend with the motto: No risk – no fun.
First Day on the Job
Today was our first day at our host companies.
I am doing an apprenticeship to become a carpenter, therefore I have an internship at American BOA Inc. My job is produce boxes for transportation purposes. At first, I was very nervous, because I had no idea how my colleagues would react to my presence. Will they like me? Is my English good enough? What about the specific vocabulary that I need? How do I measure with inches and feet?
It turned out that I was nervous for no reason! When I arrived in the morning, I was introduced to everyone and they welcomed me with open arms. Differently than in Germany, everyone addresses the boss with his/her first name. All of my colleagues were very enthusiastic that I would be spending two months with them at the company. Then they showed me around and explained how the machines work.
I was immediately put to work. My job was to assemble the boxes and to prepare the pipes for transport. I also got an invitation from my co-workers to go out with them after work.
The atmosphere on the first day was very relaxed. We had time to talk and make jokes.
My colleagues are very interested in my life in Germany and asked me several questions.
Sometimes I was unable to find the right vocabulary, but it was not a problem: Either I would describe what I was trying to say or I would ask someone directly what an object is called in English. This worked almost all of the time.
The only thing that demanded a lot of concentration and attention was the accent. Some of my co-workers have a very strong southern accent, which makes it difficult for me to understand them. The solution was to be open and honest. I just had to ask them to explain! If you explain what you need, then you will be helped. Everyone took the time to explain things to me slowly. It was no problem at all! Even my host mother told me that she often has problems understanding a real southern drawl.
Nonetheless, I think I will get used to it.
It is similar to my problems with inches and feet. They explained to me 1 million times what each of the dashes on the measuring tape meant and then at some point I knew what they meant. It is still very confusing. I will definitely suggest that they try out the metric system…
Regards and see you soon.
On our first full day in Atlanta, we had a meeting at the German-American Chamber of Commerce, which is a cooperation partner of our program. It was a very informative meeting. Since, I will be receiving a small income from my host company, it was important for me to be acquainted with the American tax system. Next week I will apply for a social security number. Then I will have to file my taxes! I am sure it will be a lot of fun. I can hardly wait.
For lunch, we were invited to a nice restaurant: JCT Kitchen & Bar. Before we ordered, everyone got a glass of tap water with ice. I recognized that it was tap water right away, because it smelled like a swimming pool. Americans sanitize their water with lots of chlorine. Of course, if you were not satisfied with the tap water you could order something else. Which meant – soft drinks. You have to be 21 years old if you want to order Beer or wine. Coke does not smell like a swimming pool and since the Coca-Cola Company has its headquarters in Atlanta, it is the # 1 drink in the city. Thus, I ordered a coke and got a glass of coke with ice and a packaged straw. After only a couple of sips, the server came with another coke. I did not even order it! I learned that in restaurants, you only pay for your soft drink one time and then you get free refills. If your coke gets too warm or goes flat then you get a new glass. It does not matter if the glass is almost full.
Welcome to America!
After a short night in a hotel in Munich, we headed to the airport. While checking in, we were asked safety questions: Did you pack your suitcase alone? Do you have gifts with you? Food? We did not have any problematic items, so we were allowed to get our boarding tickets. The flight takes 10 hours. Interestingly, none of the flight attendants were younger than 50 years old! Furthermore, the large size of the cups were a clear indicator that we were taking a Delta Airlines flight to America. When we finally reached Atlanta, the weather was a shock. It was almost ten degrees warmer than in Germany! 26° C on April 1. After leaving the airplane, airport personnel showed us the way to the immigration authority. It took us 10 minutes to walk there, where we were met by eight immigration employees, who greeted us with a “Welcome to America, Folks” or a “Howdy”. The immigration authority officers asked us more security questions: How much cash do you have with you? What are you doing in the USA? Show me your passport and customs form. After these questions, we were able to pick up our luggage from the conveyor belt. We were finally allowed to enter America after one final customs check. We said our good byes and headed towards our accommodations.
Sandra (my roommate) and three other from the group had to take a shuttle bus to the Marta station. In the bus, a friendly Indian American explained to us where we had to go and even decided to accompany us all the way. He showed us how to buy tickets and where the trains depart from. Then we took the red line towards North Springs. Sandra and I have the most central accommodations. We exited the train at Midtown station. We were almost at the apartment!
We debated taking a taxi or walking ten minutes to the apartment. We decided to walk. We had to much clothing on and the sun was shining, thus we quickly started sweating. Once, we got to the apartments at Georgia Tech University, we received our keys and entered our apartments. Wow! The apartment was beautiful, large and clean. By the time, we got in the apartment it was 6pm and after traveling for 18 hours, we only wanted to rest.
After a short break, we became hungry. The refrigerator was empty. We found out where the closest supermarket was located and headed out to find it. 15 minutes later, we found a Publix supermarket. The first thing we noticed was the large containers. We purchased a gallon (3.79 liters) of orange juice and some basic kitchen utensils. After one of the supermarket employees bagged our food and we paid, we returned to the apartment. There we made some dinner and were finally able to go to bed.