Dear Allie Cat,
I really love my job. I love it because of the people and because of what I’m doing and it’s an amazing feeling. This week I assisted in editing and contributing to Climate Alliance’s position regarding the new European Commission State Aid Guidelines re: Energy Policy. The EU has in place State Aid guidelines to make sure that one country can’t heavily subsidize an industry and therefore create an artificial competitive advantage. So they have strict limits and policies regarding things like feed in tariffs for renewable energy, and how to encourage competition while still protecting fledgling industries. Not to get into the specifics, but the revision they’re currently planning puts the energy industry in danger of continued support, or at least lack of aggressive out-phasing, for conventional fossil fuels/nuclear. The report has to be in English, so I edited it to make sure our rhetoric was as strong as possible and I contributed some points about infrastructure that I was very proud of. Things I learned in Jen Cole’s class! And okay maybe I didn’t learn everything I know now about energy there, but it’s nice to recognize so many of the same elements. And felt great to be able to contribute. Amazing! So powerful! People ask me to read and revise their written English and I think – “Me? You want me to do this??” And it’s nice to be useful, because remember that was one of my biggest fears and hesitations? So it’s really good.
The very first time I walked in through the doors I felt welcomed. The first person I saw was Silke, one of my roommates, and she gave me the biggest, most welcoming smile when she saw me. All the scared little butterflies calmed down a bit and it was just what I needed. The work culture here is very different from the States. I like it better. Maybe it’s just at my company but here the working hour policy is that you are contractually obligated to work a certain number of hours, 38.5 for me, and you have to be in the office between the critical hours of 10 and 2. Otherwise you can build your own schedule. For a year, workers get 30 days vacation. I get 15. Most people here work really hard at the beginning of the week so they can leave early on Fridays. It’s like the backwards bending leisure/income curve doesn’t exist, because overtime is discouraged and unpaid. So there is no drive to constantly work overtime and the best reward is leaving on Fridays at 2pm. I think that’s a lot healthier. Also, lunch is a very respected endeavor here. From the first day my coworkers Anna and Keri included me in their lunch group and they always come to remind me that it’s time to eat. Our lunch group constantly rotates but it’s always really nice to see people who work on the other side of the office. We all sit for at least half an hour and everyone who passes by wishes us “Guten Appetit” so that we enjoy our meal. And you always say thank you to that. It’s so nice and respectful and I wish we did that! Can we do that? Respect the food! We need a sign. I have yet to take up needlepoint/coerce Maddy into making good phrase needlepoints.
As far as language goes, I am very lucky in my officemates. Svenja and Susanne work in the same office room as me and they are so helpful and kind about my German. They will usually start off speaking to me in German and switch to English if I don’t understand and then try and switch back. If I get embarrassed they are quick to ensure me that it is just as nice for them to be able to speak with a native speaker, and they are so good at making me feel comfortable. They don’t mind when I ask them what a word means or how to say something in German, and they speak very slowly and clearly.
I’m learning so much about so many different parts of life. I’m learning a lot about myself, too. I’m so glad I’m here. Thank you for encouraging me to take this risk, for believing that I could do it, for slapping me out of my useless and annoying self-deprecation. I could never be more grateful to you, my dear, I don’t know where I’d be without you.
All my love,