Our next stop on the We Roam itinerary has the Polaris group living and working in one of Europe's largest cities, Berlin, Germany. With a rather turbulent past set upon a sprawling landscape, Berlin is nine times the size of Paris, with plenty of pockets to explore. Home to the largest train station in Europe, each day all of the city's public transit travels far enough to circle the globe, nearly nine times. Berlin is definitely on the move. Here's what I noted about working in this bustling city during my first seven days.
St. Oberholz Coworking
Our workspace for the month of July is located in a 100-year-old building in the center of the city. St. Oberholz is definitely rocking the hipster, coffee shop vibe well, and boasts three stories of coworking space for its members. Nestled in on the corner of Rosenthaler Platz square, it calls one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Berlin home.It certainly meets the criteria for freelancers or small businesses looking to make their mark in the center of it all.
Once again, the European work day is fairly similar to working back in the states, except when it comes to hanging around the office cooler. These are some of the quirks I noticed during my first week.
1. Small Talk
While working abroad I had hoped to meet a few localsalong my journey. I thought striking up casual, friendly conversation while getting coffee at my new office would be the perfect opportunity to exercise this! I was sadly mistaken. The few times I did spout a friendly, “hallo” to another coworking goer, I was answered with a variety of responses. I received one look of fright, one irritated stare and one brisk “hallo” after they already started walking away in return. I later learned that while at work, Germans tend to stay focused, and often avoid small-talk even with regular coworkers. As a whole, this culture is efficient, but when the workday is over they don’t linger on office issues. They enjoy their time off with friends and family. I guess I should have withheld my chattiness until 5:00pm.
As an American, I am well aware that English is far from the most eloquent of languages. However, I never truly understood what it was like for non-speakers to listen to it until I heard German all day, everyday. While it technicallyisn’t their fault, the German language is harsh at best, and it can be quite distracting when it’s being forcefully spoken in the seat across from you.
I have also noticed that street noise is just part of life here. Considering Berlin is a rather large, active city, the screeches and piercing honks of traffic and chatter from passing pedestrians tend to peek through most parts of life, including work. Most of my German coworking partners didn’t seem phased by this in the least. Coming from a quiet office in the states I found it a bit difficult to focus. I thankfully turned up my noise-canceling headphones, and was able to get right back to work.
3. Wear What You Want
At our headquarters in Houston, we embrace a more laid-back approach when it comes to workplace attire, and I have seen more and more of this trend, especially when working remotely from California. In the states, it is common for today's worker to dress in this casual way unless they have important meetings or face-time with clients. Berlin has seemed to pick up on this trend. I noticed a variety of "workplace attire" at my space in St. Oberholz, but nothing seemed to be classified as formal. It appeared that most individuals opted for a pulled-together look that enhanced comfort while working in this more freelance environment.
4. Closing Time
German natives have been noted for their punctuality, and life for coworking Berliners is no exception. I noticed hardly anyone seemed to enter the office after 9:00am, and most people got right to work once they walked through the door. There wasn't as much checking in with colleagues or sipping coffee in the office kitchen as I'm used to seeing back home. As the end of the day approached, I then noticed that when the clock struck 5:00pm, I was the only one left in the workspace. From my experience this first week, it seems German work culture is about working when you're supposed to work, and working well, and heading home at a reasonable time each day.
While this month will certainly be different from the last, Berlin will give our group a more in depth perspective on what it means to work in an European city. It's clear Germany's capital is on the move heading forward at a rapid pace, fueled by a disciplined, passionate workforce. Quite far removed from the quaint and picturesque Prague, Berlin never seems to stop moving. And with such hardworking people, I don't think it plans to put on the breaks anytime soon.