29 Nov 2023
Mohit Kumar Garg works as a controls engineer on the topic of autonomous driving at the MAN headquarters in Munich. He is responsible for function testing and the software for the steering wheel controls in the projects ANITA and ATLAS-L4. Originally from Sonipat, around one and a half hours away from New Delhi, Mohit came to Germany in 2015 for his master’s degree. In 2018, he joined MAN – first as an intern, then for his master’s thesis and later on as a PhD student. In this interview, he tells us what it was like for him to work in Germany with limited knowledge of the local language, and how he still managed to fit into the team and the new work environment.
Mohit: When I first arrived in Aachen in 2015 for my master’s degree in Automotive Engineering, one of the main differences I noticed was the weather. Unlike in my home country, it is much cooler in Germany and there are big differences between the seasons.
In terms of the work environment, I observed that it was generally more relaxed in Germany compared to what I was accustomed to. There are stricter regulations in place, such as those governing working hours, which ensure that employees have more time for themselves and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Mohit: This is difficult to answer, considering the vast diversity within India itself, including variations in language, culture and traditions.
A significant difference I noticed is the cultural attitude towards punctuality and organisation. Germans are known for their punctuality and efficiency, whereas in India, being exactly on time is not as common. The German work culture places a strong emphasis on timeliness and meeting deadlines, while flexibility regarding schedules is more prevalent in India.
Mohit: Unfortunately, I have personally encountered prejudices based on stereotypes during my time in Germany. One prevalent assumption that I have often faced is the presumption that as an Indian, I must work as an IT engineer. This stereotype disregards the diverse range of professions and backgrounds that individuals from India can pursue. Although it may appear harmless, it contributes to a narrow perception of Indian professionals.
Moreover, my wife and I have encountered challenges while searching for a flat to rent. Despite both being employed as engineers with good salaries, we have experienced instances where we were rejected as tenants, especially by older landlords. These rejections can be attributed to biases or prejudices that some individuals may hold.
Experiencing these prejudices can be disheartening and frustrating. It serves as a reminder that stereotypes and biases persist in society, even in professional and housing contexts. However, it’s important to note that these experiences do not reflect my views on every individual in Germany. Throughout my journey here, I have also encountered many open-minded and welcoming people who have become my friends, colleagues and neighbours. They have played a significant role in making a completely unfamiliar country feel like home.
Mohit: Firstly, the intercultural collaboration allows for a diverse range of perspectives and ideas to be shared. Each person brings their unique cultural background, experiences and knowledge, which enriches our discussions and problem-solving processes. This diversity of thought often leads to more innovative solutions and approaches.
Additionally, intercultural collaboration promotes cross-cultural understanding and learning. By working closely with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds, we gain insights into their customs and work practices. I was able to give an insight into Indian traditions and, conversely, learn a lot about German culture. This understanding fosters mutual respect and appreciation, breaking down stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive work environment.
Mohit: When I joined MAN, my German language proficiency was at level B1, but I still struggled to speak and understand the language fluently. However, I was fortunate to have a supportive supervisor who was proficient in English. We agreed to conduct major meetings in German to facilitate my language learning process.
During the first six months, understanding most of what was said in meetings was challenging for me. However, my colleagues were understanding and open to explaining things in different ways. They spoke more slowly and patiently in the beginning. With motivation from the team and the open communication we had, I was able to improve my German language skills rapidly.
Moreover, I believe that working with limited knowledge of German was not solely about language but also about social interaction and team building. Despite the language barrier, I focused on building relationships with my colleagues and engaging in open communication. This created a supportive and collaborative work environment that allowed me to contribute effectively to the team.
Mohit: I can share some points that have helped me in my journey.
Attend team events and build personal relationships: actively participate in team events, outings and social gatherings. It provides an opportunity to interact with colleagues in a more informal setting and build personal connections. Engage in conversations and show genuine interest in getting to know your colleagues. Building strong relationships within the team will foster a supportive and collaborative work environment.
Initiate communication: take the initiative, approach different people in the team and ask about their work, projects and interests. Showing curiosity and engaging in conversations helps to establish rapport and create a positive impression. Find common interests or unique skills that can serve as conversation starters.
Learn the language: invest time and effort in learning German. Even a basic understanding of the language can significantly enhance communication and integration into the work environment. It shows your commitment to adapting to the local culture and facilitates smoother interactions with German-speaking colleagues.
Embrace cultural differences: be open-minded and embrace the cultural differences you encounter. Germany has its own work culture and practices, and understanding and respecting these cultural nuances will help you integrate better into the team. Show willingness to learn and adapt, and appreciate the diversity of perspectives and approaches.
Seek support and guidance: don’t hesitate to reach out to your supervisor or colleagues for guidance and support. They can provide valuable insights and assistance in navigating the work environment, understanding processes and adapting to the organisational culture. Seek mentorship if available, as it can be immensely beneficial in your professional growth.
By following these points, I have established strong connections, enhanced my language skills and effectively integrated into the team and work environment at MAN in Germany.
MAN Truck & Bus, Knorr-Bremse, Leoni and Bosch, together with the provider of automated logistics Fernride and the test tool manufacturer BTC Embedded Systems, want to put autonomous trucks into operation on the motorway for the first time by the middle of this decade in the ATLAS-L4 project (automated transport between logistics centres on level 4 motorways). The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the Technical University of Braunschweig are providing scientific support for the project, while TÜV SÜD and Autobahn GmbH are contributing their expertise with regard to practical feasibility and the approval process. The project started in January 2022 and ends in September 2024.
Autonomous trucks improve traffic safety, can help to reduce traffic jams through predictive planning and optimise operating times. At the same time, autonomous trucks drive more smoothly, making them more fuel-efficient and therefore more environmentally friendly. Automated processes along the supply chain - for example in depots, at transshipment points or between logistics centres - take the strain off drivers and can help to make the job more attractive.
The ANITA (Autonomous Innovation in Terminal Operations) project is also focussing on autonomous trucks. In Ulm Dornstadt, Deutsche Bahn, MAN Truck & Bus, Fresenius University of Applied Sciences and Götting KG have fully automated lorries moving autonomously at the container depot of DB Intermodal Services and the DUSS terminal (Deutsche Umschlaggesellschaft Schiene-Straße mbH).
Combined transport – the linking of road, rail and/or water – is one of the strongest growth markets in the entire freight transport sector. The ANITA project is another important building block on the way to automating the entire transport process. It started in July 2020 and will run for 39 months.
Text: Renate Wachinger