Interesting tasks and fascinating culture

At the foot of the highest mountain in the world, the Mount Everest, at 17,000 ft.
At the foot of the highest mountain in the world, the Mount Everest, at 17,000 ft.

Eva Bauer reports on her time in China

Düsseldorf, February 25, 2016 – A global presence is critically important for a company such as Gerresheimer. The company develops and manufactures for customers throughout the globe. An international approach does not however, only bring advantages for our company, but also opens up opportunities for the careers of our employees. There is always opportunities to switch to a location abroad for a few years and gather experience there. Eva Bauer, for example, was trained as a tool mechanic and then worked in the facility in Pfreimd for two years, before she decided to join our team in China. She is now back and talked about her experience in an interview.

First, tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you end up at Gerresheimer and what jobs have you held until now?
I never liked sitting in an office. My father has a farm, where I always liked fiddling around with the machinery. This is how I ended up becoming a tool mechanic, which requires detailed manual work. I really wanted to complete my training at Gerresheimer, because I heard that it is offering positions at international locations as well. I had always been interested in going abroad to learn more about other culture on a day-to-day basis. In 2010, I completed my training and then worked in the Mold Service Department. And at the beginning of 2012, I was already able to go to China.

Why China out of all places?
Another colleague went to China before me, and I kept up with how that went. What especially interested me about China is that it is so exotic and completely different from Germany. Everything happened very quickly. I read the job posting on the bulletin board and sent off my application. Just a short time later, everything was happening.

What kind of work did you do in China?
First, just as in Germany, I supported the tool service team with their manual work and performed mold cleanings, maintenance, and necessary repairs.  Then, the opportunity arose for me to head up the department. My main responsibility was to assign jobs to our team of four, coordinate external repairs, follow up on requests from other departments, and to keep all documents up to date. The most challenging part of this were the external repairs. We still had to find the right suppliers and set up the necessary processes. The establishment of the Technical Competence Center in September 2014 brought new challenges. We had to develop a completely new layout with new processes. There were so many interesting and challenging projects and I had a lot of fun. What was also helpful was the amazing working climate and the good cooperation, both within my team as well as with the other local teams.

How did you prepare for China and how did Gerresheimer support you?
I prepared about three months for my work abroad, first through independent Internet research and TV documentaries. The preparations heated up during a look-and-see trip to Dongguan that I took to familiarize myself with my future environment. As part of this trip, I saw my future place of work, but also found out more about accommodations and things I could do during my free time.

Where did you live during your time abroad? Did you have a lot of contact to other Germans?
I had a furnished apartment in China about 700 square feet in size. I had to take things that were not too bulky. The apartment came with a washing machine, a fridge, and many other appliances. What is a whole lot bigger there are the apartment complexes. Buildings with 30 floors and more and not uncommon. It was easy to get to know other Germans. There was a German bakery in the center of the part of the city where I lived and that’s where a lot of us met. Of course you also quickly get to know people from other countries who are living and working in China.

Food in China is always a popular topic. How did you like the Chinese food?
Chinese food is very varied and good, much better than in German Chinese restaurants. Of course there are dishes or ways in which they prepare food that not everybody likes. What I had to get used to is that there are always bones in meat dishes. In the beginning, I really had to be careful. It is usually cheaper to eat out than to cook for yourself and there are small, delicious restaurants everywhere. There are also fast food restaurants that offer the standard Chinese dishes such as rice with meat or vegetables and soup. There are also many international restaurants close by. I preferred the Chinese cuisine though. I tried to learn how to make some of the simple and cheap dishes. Most of the time, I was successful.

There is a lot to discover in China. Were you able to discover the country?
I did, and I took full advantage of it. I love to travel and I think it is exciting and fascinating to meet the local people and to get to know their culture. This is why I traveled through China by train whenever I had a chance. I thought it was much harder to talk to your fellow passengers on airplanes. My favorite trip was the one I took on the Tibet railroad from Beijing to Lhasa. I liked it the most there as well. What was also beautiful was the hilly landscape and the rice terraces in Guilin. I had an amazing experience on the train as well. There was a family in the compartment next to me, and their little son just came to sit on my lap and did not move from there for the next three hours, even when his mother asked him to come back. He told me something in Chinese and I talked German to him, while different Chinese landscapes passed by us outside. My trip home was another memorable event. From the time I arrived in China, I had planned to take the train back home and then ended up doing just that.

You gained a lot of experience in China. What should someone traveling to this country expect?
You are not home, that is something to always keep in mind. There are other circumstances and the culture is completely different. Patience is also very important. Everything takes a little longer than in Germany. That does not have to mean that it is worse though. You also have to be careful with the people around you. It is very important to the Chinese not to “lose face”.  How they are viewed by society is very important to them...

What have you taken with you from your stay abroad for the future?
Friends from all over the world. I met lots of amazing people who I am still in contact with. And then, I gained a lot of professional experience of what is it like to work abroad. From a personal perspective, I learned what it is like to have contact with your family and friends at home only via Skype or text messages. But I definitely did not and do not regret it. I would do it again immediately without giving it much of a thought.

What is the greatest benefit of a stay abroad in your opinion?
You grow beyond what you thought possible, and you become more independent. You also learn a lot of English. You have contact with lots of other expats and get to know their stories. There are so many benefits. You see parts of the world not just from the tourist point of view.

What would you tell someone who is not sure whether they should spend some time abroad?
Many worry about the language, but I don’t think that is a problem at all. You quickly learn the most important words and if you get stuck sometimes, there are always nice colleagues ready to come to your aid. And if need be, you just talk with your hands and feet.

So what is the plan for your future?
I am currently working in the Optimization Department at the TCC Wackersdorf. Maybe I will take another assignment in another country, but I don’t want to decide that just yet.