Sunday, July 13, 2014

Germany, have I met you before?

Last month I got to spend 1 week in Germany for the first time. There was no time for sightseeing, no time to relax in cafes or explore the bylanes of the city. Lot of client meetings lined up for which I was criss-crossing the country in public transport.

On one particular day I had to go from Munich to Braunschweig and then reach Frankfurt to catch my flight. The total distance to be covered in a day was 1100 kilometers only. In the morning we hopped on to ICE - fast train that ran across the country, with speeds of 200 km/hr+. It took us about 5 hours to cover first 800km. Those 5 hours were extremely productive thanks to high speed internet on board. I often glanced outside to see abundant greenery, picturesque villages lined with wind mills and solar panel.
"I have seen this somewhere before", I exclaimed to my colleague.
"Really?", he replied is disbelief, "but you are coming to Germany for the very first time. How can see this before?"
He had a valid point. I brushed those thoughts aside and immersed myself in the work.

Soon we walked into a meeting with a renowned company. My colleague insisted that we should reach 10 minutes before the meeting to ensure we were not late. He said that the client might get pissed off if we were late. Thankfully we reached on time. In the introduction speech they said,"Engineering is our passion. We strive to achieve excellence in whatever we touch and lastly for us its always interests of our country first, then our company and then us" We were impressed. I signaled my colleague to come closer and whispered, "I think I have heard this before somewhere." He gave me a blank look and we focussed on the meeting.

We reached Frankfurt by train and as I exited the station. I was surprised to see that there were no barriers or gateways where I had to show my ticket. There was no system to check if I had actually bought the right ticket or even bought one for that matter. I asked my colleague ,"how does this work here?" My colleague replied ," it is all based on trust here. Everyone buys right ticket, there is no need to check every ticket. This country runs on trust"

This was profound. I suddenly realized there was another country That worked in an identical way. Japan. Japan valued punctuality. Once a client had told us that whatever could not be submitted on the committed timelines is not considered important enough. Japanese companies are engineering excellence crusaders. They run the most efficient Shinkansen network across the country, that allows you to travel unbelievable distances by surface transport while browsing internet. The most important of all, the entire country runs on trust. All train travelers tap in and tap out their smart card tickets irrespective of whether the barriers are operating or not. They appeal people not to speak on mobile phones in the train and people get off the train to make a call, there are no enforcement officers. Everything runs on trust there too.

I don't know why two countries which don't have any geographical or racial or genetic connection should evolve in such an identical manner. I don't find any common thread of ideology or philosophical or religious influence too. Then why should it happen? I don't have the answers, just a question for Germany in my first visit "Germany, have I met you before?"