When my parents-in-law visited us in Germany for the first time, my mother-in-law was gazing at the passing landscape as we travelled from the airport to Ludwigsburg. She was particularly taken with the little villages which popped up from time to time on either side of the motorway. After a while, she said: ‘It’s just like in a fairy-tale over there. Tell me, do people actually live in those cute little houses, or are they only for decoration?’ My mother had in fact asked almost the same question on her first visit in winter 2006. Both of them have been to Germany several times since then and have now realised that you simply cannot compare the Swabian idylls with Shanghai. There is never a quiet moment over there, life is noisy and lively, and you are surrounded by high-rise buildings. I have been living in Ludwigsburg with my husband Bin and son Yichi for eight years now and have long since become accustomed to this country. It was not planned this way at all. Originally, were only going to stay for two years …
Purchasing Manager in Germany
I joined MANN+HUMMEL in 2002. Jan Lembcke, General Manager of the Joint Venture Shanghai MANN+HUMMEL Filter Co. Ltd. at that time, was looking for an assistant. He chose me because I had studied German. I then progressed to the role of Purchasing Manager at the Joint Venture in 2004. In 2006, Axel Grossmann, former General Manager for the whole of China, and Markus Wolf, Head of Corporate Purchasing, offered me the chance to spend two years in Germany to gain further experience in purchasing. I accepted the invitation, enabling me to help optimise our global purchasing processes. At the end of 2006, I joined the team responsible for concluding a global MANN+HUMMEL supply contract with an American manufacturer – and I extended my contract. At the end of 2009, I applied for the position of Purchasing Manager, plastic parts material group – and I got the job. I am now a permanent employee, and I’m still in Germany.
The foreign language
Particularly at the beginning, things were not easy. Bin and Yichi did not speak German, I had to organise everything myself. There were of course some strange situations, for example, when my husband signed up for private dental treatment despite the fact that he was covered by statutory health insurance, or the time he locked himself out of our apartment – without a telephone, money and above all, no means of communication in German. With the help of friends and neighbours, however, we were always able to cope with such situations. At the beginning, my son had devised his own system to deal with things: for the first few weeks at nursery school, everyone was extremely kind and attentive towards their new, exotic Chinese playmate. After the novelty wore off, however, he had to assert himself like all the other children. This was not easy for a child who didn’t speak the local language. He therefore decided he wasn’t going to go to nursery any more. We sat down and had a long talk with him and gave him two options: first, you learn German or second, you teach the other children to speak Chinese. He chose the second option and when he went back to nursery, he talked his head off – in Chinese. Today he speaks German and Swabian (of course, far better than my husband and I do) as well as Chinese, which is certainly an unusual combination.
Will we go back to China? I don’t know. Naturally, we miss our family and friends. But we fly home once a year and our parents often come to visit. They like Germany. Not just because of the quaint villages but because of the windows. You can tilt them here, something you can’t do in China. When my father visited for the first time, he inspected the mechanism very closely and was most impressed. He didn’t want to tilt the window himself, however. How it operated was too puzzling!