Visiting Canadian Consulate Munich May 2nd

The morning started off with two great presentations at the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. It was exciting to see our Canadian flag hanging out of a building on a busy street in Munich. Mr. Steven Goodinson, Consul and Senior Trade Commissioner Consulate of Canada, provided an overview of Germany’s economy and its trade relationship with Canada. It was interesting to see how there is local support in Germany for Canadian businesses, and given Germany’s current skilled labour shortage, there is definitely the potential for Canadian MBAs to find work in cities like Munich. The group was also surprised to learn that a major import to Germany from Canada is coins.

The second presentation was from Mr. Frank Dollenndorf regarding small and medium enterprises (SME), which make up 99% of all companies in Bavaria. Frank is a representative of the Munich Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and therefore he had tremendous insight into SME’s, especially their role in the state of Bavaria. We learned that SME’s in Bavaria generate 40% of Bavaria’s revenue, 50% of investments, and employ 75% of Bavarian employees. Both Frank and Steven provided insight into German culture, and we are better prepared for any future business opportunities with German companies.
Later in the afternoon, we visited BMW headquarters. Unfortunately it was the Labor Day holiday in Germany, so we were unable to visit the world-renowned manufacturing facility. Instead, we spent time visiting the BMW Museum and BMW World. The car lovers of the group enjoyed examining the cars, engines, and latest prototypes with great detail at BMW World. There was also an indoor James Bond-like motorcycle stunt demonstration that was really cool. The BMW Museum showcased version of both BMW and Rolls-Royce cars and motorcycles, including the Phantom 6 (for fans of the Royal Family).

After visiting BMW, some groups went their separate ways; some visited the site of the 1972 Summer Olympics (Olympiapark) to check out the amazing stadium architecture which resembled giant tents suspended on metal wires. The soccer enthusiasts among the group visited the home of Bayern Munich and TSV 1860, the Allianz Arena. The arena holds a remarkable 71,137 capacity, and the group was able to pick up some souvenirs of the Bayern Munich team.

When we were introduced to Michael Muller, the owner of Soul Goods, he was kind enough to give us points about the night life of Munich. One point that struck home with me was his comment about buying the excessively large one litre beer that is commonly sold at most restaurants, pubs, and bars. We were told that the one litre beer is a dead giveaway that you are a tourist and you will most likely not be able to finish the beer before it gets warm and nasty.

The scene is set at the Augustinerkeller, Arnulfstr, it is the oldest beer garden in Munich. The dinner consisted of authentic Germany meals. After the dinner there were 9 of us enjoying the evening around a large wooden table. The drink of choice was a half litre glass of beer. As the night went on the number of servers dropped to one and we were running into difficulties satisfying our thirst.

We agreed to move to the one litre glass and now our local guide joined us in tourist spirit as we all shared these massive drinks.

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May 1st

The day started off with the 20 minute train ride to Dachau station, and then a 5 minute bus ride to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. We had a 2 hour tour of the site from a German tour guide. May 1 is a holiday in Germany (Labour Day) so there were a lot of tourists and other groups at the site this day, but less German school groups (who have to do a number of visit throughout their school years).

The tour enters through the main gate, giving us the perspective of how it felt to be herded through the entrance, and then the feeling of being caged in when the gate was shut. Over the entrance were the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’- Work will make you free, a slogan that Hilter used for many of his concentration camps. This particular camp was first used as a propaganda camp, where high profile political opposers were kept and later set free.

Walking through the gate you get a view of the empty main area where role call would have been taken every morning and evening. Most of the original barracks were destroyed after WWII because of structural damage but 2 have been rebuilt, along with the foundations of the others. These were built to hold 6,000 people but at it’s peak Dachau held 40,000.

The tour then led us through the camp towards the crematoriums (there were 2), which were hidden just outside the main camp area where the prisoners could not see them (even though some were made to work here). The crematorium also held the gas chamber which was built but never used in Dachau due to the need for more labour later in the war.

After, our guide took us to the museum (formerly a maintenance building) where we saw a 30 minute film about Dachau. This was the moment for a lot of people where they could truly feel the horrors that were committed in the very area we were all sitting, and one of the most emotional moment of the tour.

Then we were lead to the prison (those of us who didn’t get lost that is, some of the group were so moved by the film that they literally were moved right out the door and showed up 15 minutes later). The prison is an enigma in a camp that is already a prison in itself, this area was used to punish or break down the prisoners who generally did not return after their sentence. The memorial work done in the prison showed projections or photos in the prison of inmates kept in specific cells that shared details such as why they were held, for how long, and whether they ever left the camp. This made the tour very real, associating real people with the ground we were standing on and the specific cells we were in, knowing their names and their faces, knowing their stories- it created a sense of fear and grief for the people kept here. The visit gave us a greater sense of understanding of German history and the feelings that some still have about the events that took place during WWII.

After the tour was over we took the bus back to town and had lunch at the Hotel Fischer for a traditional German lunch served by waitresses in dirndl. It was Ariel’s birthday so we got her an apfel strudel in real German style and sang her happy birthday.

Then we all caught separate trains to wherever we had chosen to spend the afternoon. Some of the group moved on to Schloss Nymphenburg (the palace in Munich), while our group decided to visit the English Gardens, a park in the centre of Munich that is larger than central park. Thankfully the weather cleared up for a beautiful afternoon and we all spent the rest of the day exploring some piece of Munich.

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Day 3: Visit to TUM

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Today was our third day in Munich (München). The weather was wonderful all day. We walked to Technical University of Munich for a series of lectures. The School of Management was very accommodating. We were greeted with a variety of refreshments, TUM pens, and TUM notepads!
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The first guest speaker was Professor Dr. Christof Kaserer, who is a current professor and the former Dean for the TUM School of Management. He gave us interesting insight into the German financial system and corporate structure, with emphasis on family enterprises. The majority of German businesses are considered family firms, based on the criteria that a founding family member has 25 percent or more of shares, a founding family member holds an executive position, and/or a founding family member is a non-executive director. He stated that 80 percent of firms are family-owned and these firms employ 60 percent of German employees.
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After this academic session, we walked to the main campus’ Mensa, the student cafeteria. We ate delicious food while enjoying a panoramic view of the campus. This central cafeteria-style location is different from what we are used to at U of A.
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Next, we walked around Munich. Several helpful ambassadors from TUM joined us and shared their local expertise. Some of us enjoyed ice cream from Balla Beni, touted as the best ice cream in the city.

When we returned to our room at TUM, Michael Müller brought everyone their customized European Tour t-shirt. Michael Müller is a local business owner and he shared his experience with his custom clothing design company, SoulGoods. He mentioned some of the challenges that his business has successfully overcome and future plans for growth. He emphasized the importance of creating a business plan, while also being realistic and following your gut.
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Today was a wonderful day. We are looking forward to exploring more of Munich and enjoying the sunny weather. Auf Wiedersehen.
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Day Trip to Austria for Castle and Brewery Tour

We started the day with a wonderful breakfast at the IBIS Hotel: scrambled eggs, fruit, bread, cereal, coffee, tea, juice, and yogurt were just some of the options. We headed to Salzburg, Austria by bus. A tram took us to a castle. Free audio tours and a museum were among the nice things to take in. One room called the torture chamber was used as a prison and to store the torture devices, though none were believed to have been used on prisoners.

We walked down to a restaurant for lunch. Some ordered hamburgers (salty) and others ordered more german foods that did not have names. The restaurant had a smoking and non-smoking section. One waiter (the owner’s son?) served all the tables that we could see. He spoke English and English menus were available.

From there, we went to Eggenberger International in Vorchdorf, Austria. We were warmly welcomed by Manager, International Operations, Karl Stoehr and treated to beer and pretzel sandwiches. He told us about the history of his brewery. It has been in his family for eight generations and is now totally owned by his father. His brother manages the local side of the business. He gave us a tour of the brewery. He exports beer to Alberta and around the world.

Following the tour we had bratwusrt, pretzels, apple streusel (a regional specialty) and sampled more beer. We went by bus to the hotel.

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Introductory Post: Overview and Day One!

In April/May of 2014, a group of UAlberta Bachelor of Commerce and MBA students (with their four amazing instructors) are embarking upon a journey to Europe to explore the business environment in Germany, Austria and France for the BUEC 444/SMO 648 Study Tour. The trip will run from April 27th with the students returning to Edmonton on May 10th.

In preparation for the trip, each student was responsible for an individual response paper to the trip “Germany: Europe’s Reluctant Hegemon”, a group project for a case study regarding a German brewery, and viewing some preparatory youtube videos (regarding etiquette and the German business environment).
We (the 28 students on the trip) will be responsible for writing a blog during the course of trip. Each day a different group is responsible for writing about the day’s activities, so you will be able to hear a variety of experiences during the course of the two weeks!
Starting off, we have group #1 — Comprised of Megan, Ariel, Ilijana and Rachel. We’ll be discussing our travel day, and the activities from our first day in Munich! You’ll also hear from our group again on May 5th! All four of us are undergraduate students, some who are graduated after this class, and some who still have one more year left! Should you be interested in following one specific students’ journey, Megan is also doing her own blog of her trip (not at all associated with the University of Alberta’s blog) at One Girl In Germany (http://onegirlingermany.blogspot.com/.)

Our first day was mostly consumed with travel. Our plane left Edmonton at 11:45 in the morning and the plane to Toronto was filled with turbulence. In the Toronto airport there are TONS of iPads everywhere that are free to use (due to the massive Aeroplan and American Express ads that plague them), and you can order food off of them that’ll get brought to you. Megan was able to get a super delicious chicken sandwich on Gluten Free Bread (YUMMY) so our two hour layover was more than tolerable on her part! Most of us were only able to sleep for an hour, but I (Megan) did get to watch the Lego movie and the Monuments men, so time well spent! As we were landing, we got to see a field where they had the Game of Thrones dragon and words cut into a field — it was super cool to see and so well done!

When we got to Germany we breezed through customs pretty quickly and getting our luggage was no problem at all — except for the fact that our group was so massive we kept getting in everybody else’s way. The flaws of a 32 person group tour! From the airport we went to the train station where one of our professors, Rolf Mirus, purchased tickets for us to ride the train. We took up pretty much an entire train car and upset some German old lady when we couldn’t offer her a seat because our baggage was too in the way — she went to another car grumbling at us in German. Going through the German countryside was super pretty and super awesome. There’s a ton of beautiful graffiti, the type that looks clean cut, or the type that’s supposed to make you think about the world in general. The houses are nice and tiny and some are almost run down, but I’m sure they’re gorgeous to live in — it’s so nice and green everywhere around you, so it can’t be all bad! All the train stations have a bunch of bike racks, and you see way more bikes than cars — and we have yet to see a truck. We’re definitely not in AB with our Ford F150s! Even their delivery trucks are smaller here — they are definitely super efficient with how they use their space!

Off of the train we had to wheel our luggage a couple of blocks to the hotel, which was an excursion all in itself! The crossing lights here don’t warn you when they’re about to turn red, so we got stuck in the middle of a road on a boulevard — we’ve learned out lesson about crossing real fast, and not in large groups!

When we got to the hotel and into our hotel room, we realized how much Germans do value space — I’ll try to get some pictures up here on this, but they might come later when I’m back to just kind of round out the stories! There were two twin beds squished together, and then pretty much not else in the room! There’s a tiny little table, and then the bathroom essentially is a little hallway of its own. Also — the doors are made to cover the doorframes, so to us it looks like our doors are always open and we keep getting confused and kind of freaking out. I guess we’ll have to get used to German doors!
After we checked in, we had a bit of free time to go and explore. Ariel tells us she stayed in the hotel and napped — which proved to be the smartest strategy of us all. Six of us went off (including Megan, Ilijana and Rachel) to find a drug store, a bit of food and got caught up exploring like crazy. Rachel and Megan really wanted to try McDonalds to compare it, and now we can say their fries taste exactly the same — still delicious and addictingly salty! From there we went to find this random square Kurtis believed he had heard about, and the adventure began! This will get a lot better with pictures, but we began in this little courtyard with tons of pigeons and stones to sit on, and Rachel pretty much started a fight by throwing them a fry. From there we walked on through a bunch of stores that had been built into a really old area that included a bunch of cathedrals and other castle like buildings. We have a ton of pictures, including from the top of a castle-like building (we’ll have to figure out what they actually are) that cost us 2 Euros to get to the top of. Super worth it, because we got some pictures overtop of Munich, and got to leave our names inscribed on the walls forever! (Or until they paint it over — it looks like enough people have that they paint it over every once in a while). We also met a family from Edmonton! It’s odd how Canadians ALWAYS find each other everywhere they go! The churches here are so pretty and ornate and it was cool to explore them all and take pictures of everything!

After we started to get tired, we walked back to the hotel to have a little bit of a break before dinner. The wi-fi in the hotel is pretty good, so for the first five days it shouldn’t be too hard to keep in contact via facebook. For dinner we walked to a little pizzeria (Italian food while we’re in Germany — oh well!). Megan accidentally fell asleep at dinner, having been up for 26 hours in a row and having gotten her fair share of walking in. So after dinner, while a lot of people went to get ice cream some of us went back to the hotel with a few others, showered and passed out. All in all, travel day was a success!

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