We attended a recent presentation by the German Centers of Excellence, learning that companies like BASF and ABN/AMRO chose to locate in cities in Germany rather than than in lower-wage, non-eurozone Bratislava and Krakow. Wages were only part of their decision matrix. Infrastructure, education, transportation networks, and entertainment options all factored into the choice of Germany over Slovakia and Poland.
What intrigued us the most, though, was a follow-up offer that we received from Wirtschaftsforderung Berlin International (or BBDC, Berlin Business Development Corporation). Rather than send us a coffee mug with the “ich bin ein Berliner” quote from John F. Kennedy, the BBDC offered us a “Berlin Business Welcome Package” — a three-month trial relocation to Berlin including individual consulting, support in networking within our market, a fully furnished office, an apartment, and even more amenities too numerous to mention here.
The one thing that the BBDC could not offer, though, was an immediate fluency in German. Until German scientists develop the plug-in language module a la “Johnny Mnemonic” or “The Matrix,” or someone actually discovers the babelfish from the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” we’ll have to give this offer a pass. There is a lot of English spoken in Berlin, but we prefer to live and work in the local rather than the expatriate economy. Maybe it’s time to fire up those old CD-ROMs from Transparent Language and Rosetta Stone?