During my summer internship I have been working with the VEDP. This is the State of Virginia’s European International Trade office. Their office is in Munich, Germany. Even though they are a United States government agency in Germany, there are a lot of differences working with the VEDP compared to working in the United States. First, the work hours are different then the United States. I work from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm every day. In Germany, when the time Is 5:00 pm, most people will stop their work and resume it tomorrow. In the United States, workers usually stay later to keep working on the task assigned to them. In Germany when the workday is done it is done. Another difference is that on Fridays the workday ends earlier then in the United States. If you are done with your work, it is normal to leave around 1:00 pm or 2:00 pm on Friday each week. In the United States Friday is a usual workday. Workers are expected to stay the duration of their shift and to be productive. My work experience working in Germany has also been different when it comes to workplace culture and atmosphere. I work in a small office of 3 people. The work environment is very relaxed with a lot of positive reinforcement. With this work culture, you are expected to compete your tasks on time and with great proficiency. I learned this as a lot of tasks were assigned to me in the beginning and I had to plan out how I was going to complete them all in a 10-day time frame. I was expected to get it done with minimal supervision. In the United States, the work environment is more uptight, and tasks have a hard deadline. These tasks usually have an occasional check in from your boss. What is also different is the emphasis businesses put on trade shows. In Europe, a lot of connections and future business interactions comes from attending trade shows all over the eastern hemisphere. The VEDP has a huge emphasis on trade shows and attends several trade shows each month. In The United States, there is not a huge emphasis on trade shows.
A company may attend a couple a year, but it is not as common as it is in Europe. Breaks are a big thing within the German work environment unlike in the United States. With the VEDP, you are expected to take a long lunch break and a break or two during your workday. These are not timed and if you are respectable of your coworkers and the time you take it is okay. In the United States, you have very regulated breaks. The standard is to have one 15-minutebreak and a 30-minute lunch break. You must punch in and out for your breaks in the United States as well. I have learned a lot during my time and have adjusted to the different work environment Germany has compared to the United States. My advice to future students would be is to be open to a new environment and respectful of their customs and way of life. This experience has helped me to become a more well-rounded individual as I was able to visit and interact with different people around Europe through my internship. I am proud of myself for helping contribute to multiple business interactions and exchanges that will help the State of Virginia economy to grow by adding leads and business projects for companies to expand into the Commonwealth of Virginia. I would intern and work abroad again in the future if the opportunity were to present itself.