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German student in the country with three cultures

Hola! My name is Natascha and for four months now, I have been doing an internship abroad, at EDAG Production Solutions' Mexican branch in Puebla. When I started my office management assistant apprenticeship in Fulda in August 2009, I had never even thought of doing a study course, and certainly the idea of an internship in Mexico had never entered my head.

After passing through a number of different admin departments during my apprenticeship, I spent a year working as an assistant for diverse design departments, and also assisted the Head of Robot Technology. Although I enjoyed the work, I was still as thirsty as ever for knowledge, and so decided to go back to school and qualify for university entrance, and then began my studies in September 2014. 

As international cooperation at EDAG and its subsidiary EDAG Production Solutions (EDAG PS) is becoming more and more important, I made a conscious decision to study international business administration at the University of Fulda. The close proximity of my school and then university meant that it was possible for me to continue to gather practical experience at EDAG PS even during the theoretical phases of my course. To begin with, I assisted in my old field of work, then later, when my study course started, I worked in the Controlling department at EDAG PS. As my course focused on international training, I still had a compulsory 6-month period abroad to complete. 

The question was, where was I supposed to go?

While I was still a child, the great enthusiasm of an aunt who had lived there with her husband for several years first aroused my interest in Mexico. All the stories she told made me curious to find out more about this country: bays and endless sandy beaches, natural attractions and ruined cities "Chichén Itzá", one of the new wonders of the world. Not forgetting the delicious food such as enchiladas, guacamole or tortillas, all of which I was assured tastes better there than in any typical Mexican restaurant in Germany. Culturally, too, I found the country, which was once the realm of the Olmecs, Mayas and Aztecs, extremely interesting, and I looked forward to finding out more about these three different cultures, and maybe even also sharing something of the German culture with my future colleagues.

Once the decision had been made, I was allowed to deal with matters such as project reporting for the EDAG PS profit centre in Mexico while I was still in Fulda, which meant that I had already come into contact with my future boss and colleagues before going there. This just made me look forward to my internship even more. 

Almost a 12-hour flight away, Mexico is the Caribbean holiday destination furthest away from Germany. But there was no time to think of holidays: fully of motivation, I threw myself into my internship, where I hoped to gain more controlling and project management experience and improve my linguistic skills. The SAP skills I had acquired in Germany enabled me to offer immediate support in a great many areas and even train my colleagues in a number of subjects. In this way, both sides benefitted from my internship. 

What really struck me was how young the facility, which is just 3 years old, appears compared to German facilities. Many processes which are now taken for granted in Germany, where they are properly implemented, have not yet become completely established in Mexico. With Mexico becoming more and more attractive to international companies, coupled with the growing demand for engineering services and the consequent rapid growth of the EDAG Mexico facility, it will also, in my opinion, become increasingly necessary to implement German structures and processes more and more in Mexico. I saw my internship as a positive challenge and as an important contribution to the growth and future of the Mexican facility.

Language barriers and cultural differences

One of the particularly positive aspects for me was the warm manner of the Mexican colleagues. They welcomed me so openly and with such friendliness that I quickly settled in and invariably met kind, helpful people. The hospitality typical of the Mexican culture was immediately evident, and I felt at home from the very beginning. I also very quickly realised that there are certain things that are neglected in Germany but are extremely important in Mexico: although valued by the Mexicans, typical German values such as structured working, German punctuality and precision are not given top priority. In my experience, the Mexicans attach far greater value to respectful and courteous dealings with each other. This meant that at first it took me a while to get used to the Mexican mentality, but I was quickly able to respect it, and in the meantime have come to greatly appreciate it. 

Experience has shown me that it is not possible to put down roots in a country until you have learnt and are able to speak the language. Apart from the three cultures, a total of 62 indigenous languages are officially recognised as national languages in Mexico, but even so, Spanish will take you a long way. Mutual interest in learning the other language was a help here. Also, typical Mexican words or idioms can really only be learnt by speaking to other people there, and only rarely in a language training course.  

My conclusion

To sum up, I would say that Mexico is a beautiful country and certainly worth a long visit - for private or professional reasons! My time in Mexico definitely broadened my horizons and I will take with me a great many positive impressions when I return to Germany to complete my course. I will probably value German virtues even more, but even so be able to relax more and turn a blind eye now and again if something fails to meet German expectations of perfection.

Further information

Puebla, Mexico