All posts...

Working in Germany vs US

Glenn Dayton · October 3, 2017

My comparisons are based on my experience working in Tettnang, Germany with Avira and with Veeva in Pleasanton, California.

Walking around a company in Germany and 10 minutes later being slingshot across the world into a company in the US, aesthetics would likely be the only immediately noticeable difference. Door handles, interchangeable space dividers, and many windows were the first things I noticed that were different. Door hinges were sturdier, heavier, and keys slid into keyholes much smoother. After about several minutes in the lobby of Avira I started to notice everyone was dressed better. Everyone kept to their own and avoided making eye contact. Later that day when I went to the cafeteria for lunch I was surprised to hear slight chatter and dishwashing room clanks, it was very quiet.

Better food I put this at the top of the list for a reason, the food was amazing. Avira hires its own team of chefs to prepare food daily, breakfast and lunch.

Longer meal breaks The US and Germany require a 30 minute break for lunch. At Veeva many people went straight to work after eating, however at Avira I noticed many either chatted with colleagues or used their phones.

Scrum was followed Beside using JIRA and having a weekly meeting Veeva didn’t really follow Scrum as well as Avira did. Avira had daily stand ups, cared about burndown charts, had bi-weekly sprint meetings, and paid for a Scrum coach to instruct the team for 3 days.

Few people to get help from When I had technical questions, there was only one person I could go to. I quickly began to realize that the culture is in strong support of resolving matters by oneself.

No air conditioning Avira had an extremely complicated environmentally friendly HVAC system that would close the blinds on the side of the building when the sun shined in and would distribute cold air from below to the top of the building and other things I’m unaware of. However, despite this tricky system I always found myself opening the window for cold air.

Windows at workdesk German laws require employees to work in a room with a window. Veeva also had window views, but I’ve been to other companies that do not. It was pleasant to adjust my eyes after staring at a computer screen for several hours.

Water bottles were to be returned Avira had a strict policy about returning used water bottles as deposit money. Germany rewards €0.25 per plastic bottle. It adds up in a large company that provides bottled water to its employees.

Many smokers Europe in general has more smokers than in the US. Many people at Avira took several breaks per day to smoke outside.

Too many meeting rooms Avira had way too many meeting rooms. The entire first floor was meeting rooms, the gym, cafeteria and HR. The three floors above the first had at least 4 meeting rooms on each floor.

Worse pay The average salary for a software engineer in Germany is much lower than in the US. A software engineer makes in Berlin on average €54,000 ($63,000) versus $124,000 in San Jose, CA.

Very good parties (employee events) While at Avira I attended several events. They hired professional party planners to organize the layout of the venue. Avira’s end of summer party remains the most extravagant party I’ve been to.

Many nationalities Most of my coworkers weren’t from Germany. Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, Romania, and more were just a few of the nationalities represented. It was very interesting working with people that have such different perspectives.

More vacation days Avira had far more vacation days than any company I’ve worked for, with a required 20 days. However, many took more off.

No startupy vibe Foosball tables, Ping pong tables, flatscreens, yoga, weird art, etc… weren’t at Avira.

Management closed off I never had an opportunity like I did at Veeva to interact with upper management during intern meet and greets. And management was on the upper floor and rarely interacted with the employees.

Copyright © 2017 | Glenn Dayton