Hello from Atlanta, Georgia! My name is Bernd and I have just moved to the US to take over a new position within Lufthansa Cargo. I am the new Network Manager “The Americas” in Atlanta. You might ask: What is the cultural challenge of going to the USA, since America is pretty similar to Europe and especially Germany? Well, you should know that this is not my first station abroad. It is rather the final transition (for now) from the luxury Middle East over the African wildlife into the Peach State Georgia!
In 2008 I became an intern at Lufthansa Cargo and had the opportunity to work for the General Management Middle East in the Lufthansa Cargo location in Dubai. The city is a place of superlatives:
- Most exclusive luxury – A lot of things you saw there in the shopping malls you
probably can hardly never afford.
- Highest skyscrapers – Plenty of them, simply built up in a desert.
- The hottest weather – You could not walk outside at 50°C.
I personally loved working in this amazing setting. But the city is also very busy at the same time. A good way of balancing these extremes was to go on a spontaneous desert trip – and there is desert all around – enjoying silence in the dunes.
I did not experience a huge culture shock while I was living in Dubai. The city is very international and you meet many different people with unbelievably diverse backgrounds. Consequently you often wish to meet the “local population” of Dubai. However, due to the high amount of expats and foreigners working in the UAE there also were only a few local inhabitants.
However, the contrasts of the city sometimes make you experience the clash of the old and new culture. On the one hand you can still bargain at the old markets and bazaars or use water-taxis as a means of transportation – on the other hand you walk through air-conditioned modern prestige skyscrapers and drive big cars.
Same same but different: My next life episode in Johannesburg, South Africa. There I started my first “real job” for Lufthansa Cargo as a Sales Steering Manager about 6 years ago. The variety of nature and landscapes was unique and amazing. The opportunity of exploring the wildlife of Africa in my spare time was definitely a big advantage. Not to mention the amazing weather in Johannesburg.
I was definitely faced with some cultural challenges. The fact that poverty is omnipresent in Johannesburg was definitely a condition I had to deal with. Seeing a Township, the underdeveloped urban living areas that resulted from Apartheid, was a shocking moment for me. There is still a lot of inequality in the country. You have to face the facts and accept that you cannot help every poor individual in the streets. Still, you can do something and I wanted to do something. I focused on one specific project, an orphanage in Johannesburg, and supported it with donations.
Not only the poverty but also the lack of safety in the country required some readjustments of my usual habits. In the beginning it felt kind of strange to live in a gated housing area where armed security patrolled all the time. In the end I appreciated feeling safe at home and didn’t worry about safety, at least during the day.
Whether I was living in Dubai or Johannesburg, I always tried to keep my connection to Germany and managed to visit my home country regularly. Therefore I also didn’t miss anything in the long term. However, now I really appreciate that in Germany everything is ordered and people follow rules and regulations.
If I could give any advise to future expats it would be the following:
Always be open to new cultures and the people of the country you are living in. Don’t expect everything to be similar or comparable to Germany – if so, what would have been the sense in moving to another country? As I did in the past, I will also take my new job in Atlanta as a challenge and chance to experience the (work) culture of another country.
But not only for you personally but also for a company cultural variety has a big value. Especially in the aviation industry intercultural competences are inevitable in my eyes. We are connecting countries and the people of it. And this goes a lot better with an understanding of cultural differences.
PS: If you still wonder, why Georgia is called the “Peach State” – it is because Georgia-grown peaches are recognized for their superior flavor and high quality. Also, a various number of streets are named after the peach, that became the official state fruit in 1995.