Today the activities started to wind down as we began to gear up for our presentations tomorrow. However, today was a special day for me and my group because it was the site visit to our company, H&K! We had prepared a plethora of questions in advance. I was crossing my fingers that it would be different than Kuka from yesterday. We arrived and soon learned some unfortunate news: no one at the company spoke English. My group started freaking out a bit until we were told that there would be a translator. Even after learning that, I still had low expectations for the tour. While we were waiting outside the company, the translator arrived by bike. She seemed very friendly from the start and ended up being a great translator.
The dynamic of visiting my own company was very different from visiting the others. For one thing, I had the gift lurking in the back of my mind the whole time and was slightly (irrationally) nervous about giving it at the end, mainly about the timing. Secondly, I feel like I paid very close attention to what the guide had to say (or more accurately the translator). Thirdly, I felt like I had more of a right to be at the front of the group and have a good view of the presenter.
This tour was very unlike the other site visits. The one obvious thing was that the company representative did not speak English. However, there were other dissimilarities. The tour felt much more casual than the other tours. We were allowed to take pictures inside the factory, which was something we were not allowed to do in every other factory thus far. Also, we were allowed to get much closer to the machines and examine exactly what they were doing. Finally, the most exciting thing to me was what most would consider a very insignificant detail. At every factory visit so far, the entrances to the buildings consist of two doors. A huge door for machines to enter and then a small person-door next to it. In every other place, even though the giant doors were open, we had to file through the mini door, which just seemed silly to me. However, at H&K, we were able to walk through the giant door! I know it sounds silly, but I cannot overstate how excited I was.
After the company visit, we travelled back to the University with our group and worked like crazy and for a long time on our presentation. Be the end, we could all hear our stomachs growling and we decided to get some lunch. We went to a Dnar place that a German student in our group recommended and I had a very tricky and confusing exchange with the worker behind the counter. Eventually though, everything was figured out and I got my fries. The restaurant was situated on a very pretty street slightly secluded from the main street. After lunch, we got ice cream and I had yet another rocky conversation with a non-English speaking employee but ended up with my hazelnut and vanilla ice cream cone in the end. After devouring my ice cream, I went shopping in a group of four and we first went to the grocery store. I noticed that they had a lot more fresh food out than in the US and also I noticed the soccer player Thomas Müller on at least two separate advertisements. He must be quite the celebrity in Germany.
We moved on to clothing stores and I found a snazzy short-sleeve ombre shirt, but it had cuffed sleeves, so I didn’t get it. As we quickly found out, nearly every shirt in the whole store had cuffed sleeves! That fashion concept was very foreign to me but one thing that I have noticed in my time here is that all the men seem to be very fashionable, especially our mentor from the University of Augsburg, Simon. Maybe I need to bring some shirts with cuffed sleeves back across the Atlantic; All of my American friends would be so jealous.
On the way back from shopping, I stopped in at Ihle, a bakery, to grab a roll. My conversation with the worker went unbelievably smoothly, for once. It got me thinking that it’s possible for one to survive in a foreign country without knowing the language. Sure, it makes things extremely difficult at times, but it’s possible to communicate with a few phrases, a lot of pointing, and head shaking. It’s a skill we’ve all had to master.