Doing business in DACH (Deutschland, Austria, Switzerland) on the fly

St. Paul’s in Munich (near the Wies’n

While writing about my clients’ needs branching out and doing business outside of Germany, I realised it might be easier to explain German business to the Germans themselves. As an Ausländer (foreigner).

Why?

Many small and medium sized companies in Germany, Austria and even Switzerland (the DACH Region) still do more business at home or nearby than out in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the European Union has been a boon to the German economy like few other developments in modern history.

Knowing they can easily sell their products in Greece or Portugal and everywhere in between is a huge advantage for Germany and France and the other ‘big boys’ in Europe.

Nevertheless, look at successful German companies and click on the English translations of their websites, and they are truly awful. The opposite of good.

Some are clearly machine translated, and more important? They give the impression that the company spent little, if any, time developing their international page on their site. Because they didn’t.

And it shows.

When I’m helping a company that does decent sales in Germany (or the DACH Region in general), they often have international sales, as well. They spent little time on their English translation, and the orders keep coming in. So, what’s the problem.

It’s a weird truth about doing business in Germany, considering their quality of craftsmanship is otherwise so high. If it’s an engineering company or silicon chip manufacturer, you can’t fault them on having a good product. More often than not their marketing and the German content of their site is attractive and professional.

Yet the English page on their website? Atrocious.

Embarrassing.

Not going to name the company, because I don’t do that in such situations, but they are a public relations firm here in Munich. One of the more successful ones, I might add. The website is slick and their business is booming. Maybe they only want to have an English page that one could click on.

If you do, though, hold onto your pearls. These guys might have paid a consulting firm a fortune for their site and the German content, but the English on their English site makes this native English speaker blush. It’s that bad.

Doing English here in the DACH Region on the fly? Not advisable. Perhaps your older clients and colleagues don’t realise it, but you’re cutting corners and the younger generation can tell immediately.

Call or write me an email (mail@kenmacbethknowles.com) for a consultation. I’d be happy to help you out!

Get your English back to where it was…easy peasy!

Uncle B.K. and Brother Michael blowing out the latter’s 2nd birthday candle

If you’re a grandparent and one of your children has married outside of your culture, whatever that might mean, you’ve got some work cut out for you. Your daughter or son might not realise, or likely doesn’t care, that you’ve been gifted more than just grandchildren.

No, now you’ve got an intercultural dilemma in the making.

How are you going to be a decent grandparent to these kids who might not have any clue where you come from and how it was when you were their age? Luckily, you’ve already figured your life out, right? So you can impart a little wisdom.

Like my Nana did. She’s featured in the photo above and she was a piece of work, my maternal grandmother. An enigma when I was small, Nana was always chainsmoking and funnier for us, she swore like a sailor. She made zero attempts to suffer fools gladly.

It simply wasn’t her way.

Not even us grandkids.

Especially not us.

Born in the 1920s, Frances was part of what’s referred to in the United States as the ‘Greatest Generation‘, which nearly always makes me smile nostalgically. She’s here in the photo, with my mom and my brother and I there, as well. She’d married a Methodist minister, my grandfather who we called ‘Dan Dan’, during the war, and they started having children in 1946. Right at the start of the first wave of the Baby Boom.

Since they were the greatest, they couldn’t understand why their kids couldn’t more appreciate all they’d left for them. This might be a bit of an exaggeration, but my grandparents generation felt like they’d saved the world from fascism only to be handed a society now run by dirty hippies and drug addicts.

How does this relate to you learning enough English so you can communicate with your own little carpet munchers? Maybe you already understand and even speak English when you travel, and you’d just like to practise a bit.

Well, that’s what I do. I help some of my clients get acclimated to their new culture, even if they’re still living comfortably at home. You don’t necessarily have to learn how to navigate a new culture. If this is you we’re talking about, my solution is easy. I’ll be writing more about my ideas here on my blog in the coming months.

You needn’t become perfect in English, okay? Just good enough to talk to your own progeny. Your grandkids will give you a lot of latitude.

Promise.

Reach out to me via email (lahikmajoe@gmail.com) or make a comment on this blogpost if you’ve got any questions or want me to focus on some aspect of these issues.

We’ll get your English back to where it used to be. Easy peasy!

Getting canned & walking away

a photo I took six years back while walking the Camino

Here’s an update to let all of you know what’s been going on here, but because I’ve been gone so long…many of you will only read this after the fact. Way after the fact, if my readership numbers don’t lie.

What have I been doing, you ask? Well, that’s a funny question. Or answer, to be more specific.

I’ve been walking away. Saying no. Turning down work.

Because I’ve got too much to do?

Yes and no.

I started grad school since we last spoke. My kid turned three. Yes, three.

And oh…I lost another job.

You heard that right. I had a job for six months, and when I should’ve been transitioning from my probationary period to my contract, I found out how one gets canned in Germany. Sacked, fired, asked to leave…we’ve got plenty of ways to describe such a thing in English.

It was enlightening, I assure you.

Was I at fault? Yes, definitely. Well, sort of.

Were they at fault? When it happened I thought so. However, with distance I see their perspective better. Much clearer.

I wasn’t the right sort of employee for them, which was hell on my ego. But I could deal with it. Eventually.

Okay, maybe not. It’s been a rough ride, to say the least. So, what’d I do? My wife asked me that, and I answered, ‘Nothing. I’m not going to do anything.‘ Literally. I was so angry about how the job ended, that the thought of working for someone else again just made me angrier.

It was then I decided to walk. I’d been on the Camino de Santiago in Spain a few times for a week or two the first time and then only a few days with my mother the second. I’d always heard you should do your pilgrimage from home.

Well, home is Munich which means I got a new pack and started walking towards Santiago. For a month. With stops and starts, because after the first few weeks, I needed to be home for my daughter’s birthday.

Why am I telling you all of this anyway?

My personal blog has always been a tool for me. When my mother was still alive, I liked it that she could read about my experiences living here in this city that she had loved living in, and it still tickles me that she’d leave personal notes in the comments that a more technologically adept person would put in a text message or what have you.

In the coming months, I’ve resolved to post here more regularly and try to build my readership again, like what I had when I was blogging about tea. If you like what you’re reading, please comment here on the blog.

If you want me to write about something in particular, let me know. I’m happy to oblige, within reason.

Please help me grow this thing by interacting with me. I assure you it’ll be quite a ride. It always is, isn’t it?

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if you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else

‘The subtle mental shifts we experience over time and how they lead us down our paths’

Heidi Jones

There’s my writing prompt. It’s from my friend Heidi, who I saw recently at my thirtieth high school reunion.

That was a trip, by the way. Like a psychedelic one, I mean. The good kind of trip. Glad I don’t do that anymore, though. It was hell on my psyche.

Mine is about fighting. My mental shift is about anger and how I deal with it.

You likely don’t know this about me, but if you know anything about astrology, I’ve got a curious and kind of unsettling chart. What do I mean?

I’m mostly fire. A burning surging seething wildfire, even. That’s only part of it, though. My moon is in Cancer, like the old Joni Mitchell song talks about.

Heidi, remind me to tell you about Trina in that same song, ok?

Anywhoooo…moon in Cancer, which is water, of course. However, my sun and my ascendent are both fiery and passionate. A person with my chart is troublesome.

Truly.

But I don’t put any truck in astrology. Just a bunch of hooey, right?

Right.

Heidi asked a difficult question, because I’m still in the process of transitioning. From a bitter bastard of a scoundrel to a hopefully less angry individual, but that’s still unresolved.

I’m not a nice person most of the time. I’ve mentioned it here before, but I can present a polished version of Lahikmajoe online or in my public life, but in private?

Ask Miriam. Really, ask her. She’ll be direct about it. She doesn’t need to cover up my rough edges.

Sometimes she even appreciates them.

Yet how was I before? I just walked away from conflict when possible.

Let me tell you a story about me when I was new in Germany, yeah?

Here I was in a foreign land, in which I’d lived as a small child and always wanted to return to, not able to communicate so well in the German language. I had my dog and my beer, and I was ok.

Truly.

People in the park were mostly cool, but sometimes there’d be what I call an ‘angry German‘. They’re still out there, in case you think this is a twenty-year-old phenomena that no longer exists.

Even today, I run into really angry locals who’re furious about something or other. Sometimes I stepped in their way or tried to park in the parking spot they thought they’d seen first. You get the idea.

Not all of them are like that, in case you’ve gotten your proverbial knickers in a twist.

#NotAllGermans

Back to my story though, eh?

There I was in the park, new in the county as I said, and some German starts hollering at me for reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend. He says some nonsense about an ‘Anzeige‘, and I know from the context that that’s bad. A Strafanzeige is a fine you get for breaking the law. It’s not important for the story.

So? I walk away.

Simple, right?

You can’t give me your Anzeige if I’m not here for it.

The person never called the police. It was a threat that I knew he or she was in no way going to follow through on.

Ever.

That’s how I used to deal with my anger, Heidi.

I disengaged.

My first marriage? I walked away. Left a lot of money on the table, because I got the only thing I wanted from that marriage.

Ella and her brother

The dogs.

They were my treasure and now they’re gone.

I’ve got new, wonderful treasure, but it just ain’t the same.

Oh well.

You know I adore my wife and our astounding little progeny. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a grateful happy man.

But I miss their floppy ears. I miss how Louis got up in the night and rearranged himself while everyone else was trying to sleep, and how Ella watched over us in the park and made sure her brother kept up.

He wasn’t the smartest dog, if I’ve not said that in a while.

My dogsitter Gitti lost her Joanna a few years back and she moaned about it on Feckbook for ages. I’m sure some friends wished she’d just get over it.

This is my grief. This is how I’m processing it.

If you don’t like it or think I should grieve otherwise, you could perhaps go read something else.

Stealing from little baby Jesus

This is only a baby elf, but he looks malleable enough — Jesus should be even better

So is he coming, or isn’t he? Kids around the world, well the Christian &/or western world I should say, are wondering if & hoping that St. Nick makes an appearance tonight. Even in northern Germany, the little ones are waiting for the Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man, literally).

He purportedly comes early enough on Xmas Eve that the kiddos in that neck of the woods can open all their gifts sometime this afternoon/evening. This is all hearsay, though. I’ve neither had children in northern Germany nor been a child there. Here in Bavaria, though, I know the drill. It’s not the Christmas man here, but instead the Christkind (Christ child) hauls all that loot to the little boys & girls. Please don’t ask me to judge this complete hogwash. I’m sorry, but I’ve got a hard enough time with the whole St. Nicolas scenario. Even if he manages Germany in the afternoon here, he can’t get to the rest of the Christian world in one night.

The little baby Jesus, on the other hand. Now that’s plausible. I’m with Ricky Bobby on this one. When I pray, I turn to the infant 👶 in swaddling clothes. I look at my baby in her childlike innocence & I think, ‘It’s gonna be a lot easier to get this one to give me cool stuff than it would’ve been with that grumpy old Santa geezer.’

Our baby is easily distracted, so I assume the deity in his smallest person form would be a piece of cake to bamboozle. This is a great idea. The more I think about it, I think this might be the best Christmas EVAH!

I’ll let you know how it goes with my Christkind heist.

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relaunching this blogging lark with a whimper in the night

Watching baseball in the middle of the night with a newborn in one arm and scattered thoughts running through my brain, I’m reaching for a decent explanation of why my digital scrawling is worthy of your (or even my) attention.

For the last several years I haven’t bothered sharing my life’s minutiae, as I did when social media was a shiny novelty. Periodically, I’d amble over to twitter or google+, before the latter was finally given up for dead, and like old times I’d try to mix just the right quip with an uploaded photo of my lunch. Or some attempt at a clever observation that easily washed by in the stream of my followers’ feeds.

Even ridiculous terms such as Twitter followers and the idea of my once having been mayor of Rotkreutzplatz on 4square, makes it abundantly clear to me that accusations of this all being pretentious nonsense was closer to home than I liked to face.

What changed? The easy answer is the above mentioned infant. Major life changes normally coincide with an assessment of one’s behavior, and a baby can easily be considered both a logistical as well as philosophical shift.

Somebody recently told me you don’t truly know German culture until you watch your kid go through the Teutonic educational system. As with most thing related to raising children, my first reaction is that some people take this whole parenting ordeal gravely seriously. It’s understandable, and perhaps this will finally be that life alteration which makes me grow up and approach at least one area of my existence with some maturity.

Hopefully not too much, though.

My second reaction, you ask? After I’ve let the observation settle and considered it came from someone who’s been here in Germany as long as I have, has teenage children and clearly speaks from experience.

Do I really want to know this culture better? Wouldn’t I rather continue to go off half cocked? Isn’t it easier to knowingly shake my head and mutter, ‘Damned Krauts,’ when I run into something that perplexes me?

Yes, probably.

Oh by the way, the baby’s been fed and has drifted back off to sleep. My second favorite baseball team is up a few runs in the fourth inning in Boston, and I’d like to get back to watching this game.

Relaunching this blogging lark with a whimper in the night. Anyone out there listening?

Summertime…

…and the living is easy…

This photo isn’t from the summertime, but I’m sitting here imagining living closer to old friends like Marin in the photo or so many other friends from high school. Or in this case as far back as middle school. Marin and I met while riding the bus to Lanier Middle School, and that’s where I met Casey, too. She’s made a life for herself & her family in Lubbock, Texas. That’s far from everything, by the way.

Why do I dislike summer? Sometimes aggressively, even. What’s my problem?

The usual stuff. It’s too hot. I’m busy with both work and private life. It’s manageable.

Wonder if I could ever withstand a Texas summer again. Hope I never have to find out.

‘I got a hamster’ brought to you by Diamond Cookieoftruth

violet-in-violet

Hello Violet,’ he said. ‘It’s Uncle BK

Really? All the way from Germany?

All the way from Germany, yes. I saw you got a hamster. A hamster named Alexander, right? Let me tell you about the history of the domesticated hamster,‘ I started to mansplain to my second oldest niece.

Got it covered, Uncle BK. Check out one of my recent YouTube videos,‘ she chirped.

With no further ado, here is Violet in I got a hamster.

Go to Diamond Cookieoftruth.

Subscribe. Really, do it. These girls are hilarious.

Quick and Dirty German Lesson: the German word for hilarious is urkomisch.

Have I not convinced you to go check it out? For further enticement, here’s the blurb on their YouTube channel:

we are the diamond lords we know wichcraft and potions and wiserdrie i know how to stop headches and sore mucles i hope you enjoy the wiserdrie of my channel

Who doesn’t need a bit of ‘wisardrie‘ these days?

They’re my nieces, by the way. Be nice in the comments, y’all.

Curating for @I_amGermany and reminded why I used to enjoy twitter

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-09-39-07

Quite a week here in Munich. The Oktoberfest is waiting impatiently at the gates like heathen hordes. The skeptical and easily spooked locals are sure terrible things are going to happen at this year’s Biggest Beer Festival in the World.

All the while, I’ve been curating the @I_amGermany account over on twitter. I don’t talk much about this platform here on my blog for quite a few reasons, but the biggest is this:

The people on twitter already get it. Those who aren’t there can be weird about it and often react to its being mentioned with bafflement. However, they have clearly seen twitter mentioned as a source in the media.

It’s the folk who’ve set up an account over there, taken twitter for a test drive and found it a big disappointment…with these people? It’s been best to avoid the topic entirely. I’d try to compare them to former smokers being the biggest anti-cigarette crusaders, but I’m not prepared to wade into that one.

If you’re one of my readers in the last category, you might want to come back for the next post. Not that I’m going to go on about twitter necessarily. Well, not more than I already have.

However, the week I’ve had over at @I_amGermany has been so enjoyable that I felt I had to make some mention of it. If you’re so inclined, go take a gander. Oh, you want a link? Go here: https://twitter.com/I_amGermany

Here’s what a guy in Berlin wrote after his experience doing it a few years back: http://www.uberlin.co.uk/tweeting-for-germany-what-i-learned/ He describes some things I can undoubtedly relate to.

Why did I used to enjoy twitter, though, and what has this week reminded me of? It’s more than just the immediacy of it, but that’s a great advantage. In this case, I’ve connected with seemingly limitless people here in Germany, or who are somehow interested in Germany, and I’m skeptical we’d ever have *met* otherwise.

I’ve rattled on elsewhere about the meaningfulness of meeting such people virtually, so I won’t go there again…not now at least. Might dig back into that soon.

In the meantime, there’s the little local beer festival I mentioned above. The heathen hordes I mentioned are ever closer. The smell of their breath enters my nostrils and I can sense it’s going to be an eventful few weeks.

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

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Light on the River Isar that runs through Munich

For quite some time, I’ve intended to change the tagline on this personal blog. I’m not certain how long it’s been, but it might’ve been from back when I started that if you clicked on my site, you’d see:

pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It was an allusion to the Wizard of Oz, as well as a commentary on the way in which each of us creates our persona online. Essentially, I was saying: read my thoughts here, but please don’t expend any energy looking backstage.

I’ve chosen to live in a country that takes privacy very seriously. Because of Germany’s complicated history with the government surreptitiously observing its citizens, there is a genuine desire to ensure users ability to control how much of their private lives they display. It’s easy to be cynical about such a position, and my friends who work in cyber security would quickly insist that most of what we think of as online privacy is an illusion. However, I continue to respect the lengths to which they go to keep fighting the proverbial good fight. Europeans in general and Germans in particular are earnest about this. Quite commendable, if you were to ask me.

Yet the above tagline no longer works for me. It’s no longer the message I want to get across here. Not remotely. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an entirely new position. Frequently some event will happen hereabouts and I’ll receive queries along the lines of, ‘What in the world is going on over there?

My response is to write this blog as a meta answer to that exact question. The new tagline:

Missives from this corner of Old Europe

Implied in this is my eagerness to take on whatever questions you might have. If you read something here that you’d like to know more about, say something in the comments or drop me a line via email.

Hope you enjoy the new direction, and I’m already looking forward to some lively exchanges.