Notes on Germany

One of the reasons I don’t like posts like this one is because people use it to support a black and white narrative. I don’t like this however, I decided to write it to save my time in the future and more importantly, to create a gravitational field around me of people who will read it and drive interesting discussions or correct me if I am wrong, which is equally valuable.

It is puzzling to me how in the German ethos of individual freedom the state has the right to decide what’s right for you, even if it has nothing to do with anyone in the society.

Let’s take the example of the TV tower in Berlin. Anyone living here know they can buy a ticket and go up to enjoy the view. What you don’t know is that people on wheelchairs are not allowed to go up. The justification is that the building has a single elevator which should be reserved for the fire department in case of fire. Even if I want to waive my right to be saved in case of fire, I simply can’t.

On my birthday I went to watch a movie with a friend, I asked the guy at the tickets counter to reserve me a normal seat as I will move from my wheelchair. The guy refused, citing again, fire safety. I wasn’t in the mood to argue but I could literally book a seat from my phone.

If you start a company in Germany and you are its managing director (the equivalent of a CEO in American companies) you must pay social security on your salary. You don’t have to if it is a sole proprietorship, but if you try to do a joint stock corporation, you get extra bills just because you have a different company type even if it is the same business. Another example of the state dictating what personal risks you are allowed you take on yourself.

Moving to unsaid words, I wrote a post that I didn’t publish titled “The A Word”. The A word to me since I moved to Germany is “Alignment”. If you work in a German company, this is what you will hear the most. Alignment is mostly about stating the obvious over and over. Very low signal to noise ratio discussions.

I recently realized a deep cause for overusing “alignment”. No one tells you the important info unless you ask specifically for it. This can be quite harmful in areas where there is asymmetry of information between you and person you are dealing with like lawyers, accountants, and doctors. They won’t tell you the important stuff unless you ask for it and if you don’t know what questions to ask, you will never know. This literal answering of questions bears the need for alignment. You have to interrogate all the options of a question until you get the critical answers. It is frustrating and extremely inefficient, but it is what it is.

Now let’s talk business, tech, and startups. One less talked about element of Berlin’s tech ecosystem is that the three big outbreaks are all Rocket Internet’s, which if you think about it, they did things in a very non-conventional way relative to how most people in Germany think. They were literally moving fast and breaking things. I still don’t like the mercenary nature of how they operate but one can’t not admire their ability to scale things quickly. If Germany had better employee share participation laws, Rocket could’ve produced a big number of wealthy individuals who would go and fund the next generation of outbreaks. Sadly it is a missed opportunity.

Speaking of employee participation, I am following the so called “Startup Verband” which is some form of union aiming to make Germany competitive in the tech era. One eyebrows raising action for me is that their biggest demand at the moment is a German ministry of digital. Regardless of this, I like their efforts in pushing better employee participation laws and I hope they don’t produce another mediocre outcome.

Last but not least, I appreciate healthcare in Germany every time I have have to deal with it. Apart from the language barrier, I rarely had unpleasant experiences. I was joking the other day that the nicest people in Germany are nurses, and the people working in Lindt shops. I am grateful for this.

That’s it for now. Those thoughts came out after a lot of filtration and cool down period. They look mild but some of them drove me nuts, sometimes calling friends and swearing why I am here. Anyways, I am staying here and not going anywhere, until further notice.