Hello! My name is Hisashi Takizawa. I’m from Tokyo and I’m currently doing an MBA course at the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management.Before coming to Germany, I studied industrial engineering at the University of Tokyo and worked in the public sector in Japan. I moved to Leipzig in 2014. That was my first experience of living abroad. In September 2015 I moved to Cologne and started an internship with Bayer Business Services.
I decided to move to Germany because there are many opportunities for engineers here.Since I came to Germany, I’ve gained a lot of cross-cultural experience because more than 90% of my classmates are from outside Germany.I’ve learned a lot from them and they made me feel at home. This highly diversified environment is fascinating, but I’m also interested in German culture, especially working culture, so I decided to look for an internship in a German company.I was looking for something that combined industrial engineering and business administration and I came across my present internship at Bayer.
My job and our team
The department where I work develops IT solutions for other Bayer departments, and our team mainly analyzes Bayer’s supply chain.My tasks are to visualize the supply chain network and show how it could be optimized with a simpler interface. It fascinates me because it’s exactly the combination of industrial engineering and business I was looking for.The tools I’m developing are still at the R&D phase, but I hope they will be used by other departments in the future.
I think approximately a quarter of employees in the department I work in come from outside Germany. Most of our internal communication and the signs in the office are therefore in both German and English, so I’ve never had language problems. Our team is also very international and team meetings are held in English. Our team structure is quite flat, and I can talk to my colleagues and my boss flexibly and get their advice and feedback easily.
I was already aware of some cultural differences between Japanese and western culture, but it took a while to adapt to them because I had some strongly rooted daily routines. Surprisingly, in Japan, we don’t have a greeting like “How are you?” So in my early days in Germany, I usually forgot to answer spontaneously or answered in too much detail. Another example is that when Japanese people talk to one another, they usually stand well apart. This distance is bigger in Japan than in western countries, so I used to step back while I was talking. But by spending more time with my classmates, flatmates, and local people, I managed to fit in. Most importantly, it has been quite fun for me to see all these differences and learn all these new communication styles.
Intercultural experience at Bayer
I haven’t come across any serious problems with different cultural backgrounds at Bayer. That’s because Bayer is an international company and has many international employees. That makes it easy for foreign interns like me to feel accepted. Besides, if you come up with ideas based on your past experience, Bayer listens to your opinion and it may be discussed at a meeting.
Even so, I have observed some cultural differences between my previous experience and Bayer. Here is an example:
In Japan, it’s still difficult to take a vacation or to cut back on overtime, so it’s difficult to plan a vacation in advance. It’s better for my colleagues if I’m flexible and only plan my vacation at the last minute. By contrast, work-life balance is important at Bayer and we always discuss it at meetings. That means it’s better for our colleagues if we decide on our vacation dates in advance. At first, I wasn’t aware of these differences. But later, through talking with my coworkers, I found it makes more sense in Germany. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I am not allowed to change my plans later. In fact, it’s easy to change my vacation dates
If you want to do an internship or thesis at Bayer, or just in a different country, I think the most important concept is: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. It might take a while to understand a different culture, but you need to understand and respect it, then you will feel settled and even be able to have arguments with other people.I don’t think you’ll have language problems at Bayer, but if you learn the local language, your life in your new country will be more rewarding.
This post is also available in: German