The tall lady from Germany in the Indonesian Support Department
Have you always been curious to find out how they work in China? Or do you think the USA is your dream country? Krones AG’s internal exchange programme is designed to upgrade its staff’s intercultural language and behavioural skills. What’s more, participants are offered an opportunity to gather valuable experience in their job abroad. Another important aspect in this context is to create an international staff network, so that employees in different countries can join forces to effectively address certain topics and projects on a long-term basis. We talked to five people from Neutraubling participating in this programme. Today, we would like to introduce you to Claudia Konhäuser and the work she’s doing in Jakarta (Indonesia).
I’ve been working here in Jakarta since 4 January, and wouldn’t have wanted to miss this opportunity for anything in the world! Across Borders is something I can unreservedly recommend to anyone who likes travelling and is not afraid of some additional work.
I’ve been with Krones AG since 2007, as a sales executive in Life Cycle Service (LCS) Sales Asia Pacific. The countries I’m looking after include Australia, Pakistan, the Philippines and also Indonesia. My principal remits are drawing up quotations for spares and creating orders in the system.
I’m in touch with customers and subsidiaries on a daily basis and have thus come to know and appreciate some of them very well. Occasionally, I’ve also had an opportunity to meet a few of them in person, for instance when they were sent to Neutraubling for training.
The subsidiary in Jakarta can point proudly to soaring growth and is at present undergoing a make-over process. All spare parts have since last spring been purchased from Krones Thailand. This means: lots of new colleagues with little experience in how to work with SAP programs, for instance, and with the company they’re working for.
My job is to provide LCS support, meaning to help the six-strong team with anything that crops up to do with SAP and the make-over I’ve mentioned, and to improve communication with Thailand. I’m helping my colleagues in Indonesia to handle more and more tasks themselves, like creating orders in the SAP program. My aim is to enable them to work as autonomously as possible.
Have you already been able to notice some striking differences to your home country?
The subsidiary can’t be compared to Krones Neutraubling. We’re 35 people working in the back office, meaning everyone knows each other. There’s no flexitime here like in Neutraubling: you work from 8 a.m. till 12 noon, one hour lunch break, and then from 1 to 5 p.m. Most of the staff come in before 8 a.m. and leave the office later than 5 in the afternoon. Staff in the service department often work Saturdays as well.
A new posting means new colleagues, new contacts. Was it difficult for you in this new interpersonal environment?
I was given a most cordial welcome, and I’m ‘looked after’ very considerately. The workplace atmosphere is very good, there are joint activities like karaoke evenings and a weekend outing once a year. There’s a joint lunch in the mall, or lunch is ordered and then delivered by the office boy to the small kitchen on the premises. On Friday, there’s a dress code, and the staff take turns to announce it on Thursday. This could then be batik (which I presume is the local equivalent to traditional Bavarian costume), or pink on St. Valentine’s Day.
One really most striking difference to Germany is the huge number of service personnel you see. It starts with people sweeping the streets and car park attendants, right through to veritable swarms of shop assistants at the supermarket checkout. Most families employ a nanny round the clock, who lives on the premises and, laden with baggage and carrying the little ones in a sling against her chest, accompanies the family to the restaurant, to weddings or to whatever else is up. The Krones Indonesia VT team includes quite a few young women with small children. After just a few months of maternity leave, they’re right back in their full-time jobs, and the nanny looks after the kids.
At present, I’m still lodging at a hotel situated in one of the numerous malls. I can walk to the office, which is located about 300 metres further down on the opposite side of the street. This is highly convenient if you think about how early some of my colleagues have to get up, since every morning in the rush hour the streets are completely congested. This may well mean your trip to the office takes as much as several hours.
Considering that it’s got 20 million inhabitants, the capital and metropolis of Jakarta is remarkably “non-touristic” and not quite as international as you might expect. Outside the office or hotel, English is in very short supply, which is why I started learning the national language, Bahasa Indonesia, two weeks ago. There’s a language school right round the corner where I take lessons after work, from 6 to 8 p.m. two to four times a week, together with two Chinese immigrants.
I use the weekends to go on small trips to the surroundings of Jakarta, like to the Thousand Islands, an island paradise that you can reach from Jakarta by boat in about one or two hours. A diving course is as good as booked. Next week, I’ll be going to Yogyakarta with some of my colleagues to see the Borobodur, one of the biggest Buddhist temple complexes in South-East Asia. Needless to say that when you’re here, there’s no way round a weekend trip to Bali.
Sounds like genuine dream material. Were there any particularly exciting events as well?
Heavy thunderstorms were the order of the day in January and February, with the streets often flooded because the water could hardly drain off fast enough. This had a catastrophic effect on streets, roads and traffic, which are chaotic enough even in good weather. So what I’m saying is that my daily walk to the office was quite an event in itself: put on the flip-flops, roll up your trousers, and right through it all you wade! But people told me this was nothing compared to last year, when the water in the streets was many feet deep.
Public urban transport, though, is often completely unfathomable. There are no bus timetables. You wait at the kerb, and in most cases one of the rather tatty buses packed to the rafters, with their door always open, will turn up sooner or later. Or you take a minibus, a sort of shared taxi. In addition to these, there are thousands of bajaj, reeking, noisy, three-wheel bubble cars, and even more ojek, scooter taxis, as it were. This is frequently the fastest alternative since there are hordes of scooters and mopeds threading their way through the sluggishly moving or completely congested traffic, collecting at the red lights, or – more often than not – simply ignoring them. A bit of advice here: agree the price before you start J
All in all, however, life is much less hurried here than it is in Germany. The clocks in this country run more slowly, and so do the people. Nobody is out and about alone. You are accompanied to the taxi by three or four people, or one of them takes you home directly – no point in objecting! Everyone is extremely friendly – and inquisitive. Grilling foreigner mercilessly about their private life is quite ok. People keep asking me whether I’m married, and when I say “No”, they want to know when I intend to get married.
There aren’t that many Europeans here, and since I’m 5 foot nine tall, a respectable height for a woman, I’m a genuine attraction. This is why many Indonesians get all excited when they see me in the street or when I enter their shop. The lower classes, in particular, do not conceal their enthusiasm, and while fingers are pointing at me from all directions I’m greeted by happy screeches of “buhle”, which is the local term for a white-skinned person. They are all of a dither when I greet them in Indonesian. Not infrequently, I end up somewhere with one Indonesian clinging to each of my arms, or surrounded by teenagers, all wanting to take a photo.
Without a doubt, the highlights of my stay so far included the wedding of one of my colleagues. A gigantic reception with hundreds of people, and the happy couple was attired in right royal splendour, enthroned upon a dais. Everything in red and gold, everyone with exotic make-up – and that includes the groom!
It is hard to believe, but soon three months will be over – time flies when you’re enjoying yourself – and I can safely say that in opting for Indonesia I was 100 per cent right6.