Posts Tagged ‘work’

Besuch von Bundeskanzlerin Merkel bei Voith Hydro

Last Friday at work we had an exciting event in the afternoon – a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  She has been on an energy tour throughout the country for most of the month, and her last stop was to Voith Hydro’s R&D facility – where I work!  The tour was to promote the country’s renewable and alternative energy sectors: generation, research, development, and manufacturing.  

In addition to being given a tour of Voith Hydro’s laboratory test facility, Frau Dr. Merkel requested the opportunity to meet and chat with some engineers from our facility.  Knowing this, several of us were asked to participate, and I was honored to be included and be able to show off some of Voith’s international reach.  

The event was well orchestrated, and we had about seven minutes of group time, where Frau Dr. Merkel (that’s a physics degree, mind you) asked about the tools we use in our engineering work, and what types of degrees we had and where from.   

While I didn’t get to talk to her directly (either via her fluent English or my broken German), the whole event was still neat and fun, and I got to be in the group picture!   The visit was good for the company, good for hydro, and good for alternative energy production in general – and good for the leader of a country to show her ability to openly embrace reliable and clean energy sources.  

Image copyright Voith AG.


 For more information visit the Voith AG media page (English or German):



There’s a phrase in German used among common work friends around lunch time.  I’m told it’s valid from about 11 AM to 1 PM, and it relates to the mid-day meal.  Literally, “mahlzeit” means meal, but it’s used as a greeting, a statement, sometimes a question (or so it seems to me), and as a farewell. 

So a typical exchange might go something like this:

{Walking out of the building at 12:00, you see some colleagues}


“Mahlzeit!”  “Mahlzeit.”  “Mahlzeit!”

On your way to the cafeteria (kantine), you pass colleagues coming from lunch.


“Mahlzeit.”  “Mahlzeit.”  “Mahlzeit!”

Then you eat lunch, and the cash register attendant tells you “Malzheit,” when you pay.  Then you walk back to the office, and you pass others coming to lunch…you get the idea.  You end up just mahlzeitin’ everybody, which is OK.  It’s an older term though, so the youngest employees may not mahlzeit you back, but working in an office long enough they will give in and mahlzeit with the best of them.

Voith has a company cafeteria in HDH, something that I will certainly miss when I am back in York (cafeteria-less).  It’s called the kantine :

(Voith's image)

They offer a variety (sort of, mostly pork) of meals each day, and the menu changes daily.  It’s pretty inexpensive, and you put money on your employee badge, so it’s easy and quick to get your food and swipe your badge at the register. 

The food is good, and is typical German fare, unless it’s a theme week/day (during the World Cup, they had food from different nations playing on different days, and at the end they had squid several times…).

Today was burger day, which happens, I’m told, only twice a year.  So the guys at work were very excited to take me along and see what I thought of this very American meal.

It was good!  Had all the fixings, and had fries as well.  Given it was a cold day, they should have had a cup of coffee available (hot days = milkshake) but alas I had to make do with the orangensaft.  

I noticed several others eating it with a knife and fork, but I tried to show them culturally how we do it with our hands.

Can’t wait until the next burger day!

It’s hot.

Okay, so this is all relative.  The East Coasters, you had it pretty hot a couple of weeks ago.  And in Heidenheim we aren’t setting records like in Berlin.  Today’s high was about 90°F (or 32.2°C locally), and that’s pretty hot for this area.  But we’re finding out we miss air-conditioning.  Very little is air-conditioned here, or in Europe in general.  Not the bank, not the car dealer, not my (Russ’s) office building.  The only place I’ve found that is air-conditioned is the small waiting room at the auto-glass repair shop.  What does that say about their prices?

Now, I grew up without A/C at home.  In Rochester, it doesn’t get that hot (at least, historically) to really necessitate it.  So I can handle it.

But, I walk to work (and also carry my lunch); it’s about 15 minutes to the office, and while I’m in much better shape than when I arrived, I still work up a good sweat once I get to the building. 

Then, there’s my office itself.  I have been told by no fewer than 5 co-workers, some who do not even work in HDH, that my particular 4-man office room is the hottest in the building.  Reasons? 1) It has a black roof right outside the windows which radiates all day, because 2) it is on the NE side of the building so the sun shines on it all day long. 3) It has windows only on one wall, so there is no chance for cross-flow breezes.  And finally, 4) there are pipes running through its ceiling and walls which carry hot water for the heating system and the sinks.  So it’s constantly being heated.  Add in 4  computers and 4 people, and it’s like a heat transfer class final exam to figure out how hot the room gets before the paint starts peeling off the walls.  There have only been 3 or 4 days where we worked with the lights on.

But it’s all relative – my colleagues from India claim they don’t mind until it gets above 40°C.  But even if I’m sitting, in the (mostly) dark, windows open, and without a breeze, you can work up a good sweat.

My German colleagues are split.  Some wonder why they built this building (three years ago) without A/C.  Others tell me about freezing in the York office during the summer.

In the end, we just wash a lot of shirts more often, know that it won’t last for too long, spend more time at biergartens, and look forward to Oktober.  I’ll probably be the only one outside without a jacket. 😉

Yeah it's hot in the office.

A hot engineer at work.

PS: Maybe this will cool us down, as it’s bearing down right now.


Today was the grillfest barbecue party at the Brunnenmühle (Russ’s office building). 


It’s a time to socialize, reflect on the previous year’s work and accomplishments, and welcome the newcomers to the department (my time in York exempted me from being a newcomer, thereby exempting me from having to work the grill).  There were a couple of varieties of beer, vegetable and potato salads, fresh pretzels, and lots of meat: red hots, white hots, thick bacon wrapped on a stick (delicious), chicken, and pork cutlets.

Unfortunately I had to leave early for our first German class!  But it was a nice afternoon, and the beer helped me get through better appreciate the German language.