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Coming Home

While feeling comfortable at my place of employment—where I spend many hours of my life—may not be shocking, I was a bit surprised by how much Germany feels like home, in a different sense, to me.

Article From: 4/17/2014 Production Machining, , Senior Editor

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Chris Felix

Last month I wrote about how my return to Gardner Business Media years ago felt a lot like coming home from a long trip away. I have a close connection with many of my co-workers and a certain sense of security being involved again in the industry where my career began. Do certain places make you feel particularly secure? Are some of these locations unexpected? While feeling comfortable at my place of employment—where I spend many hours of my life—may not be shocking, I was a bit surprised by how much Germany feels like home, in a different sense, to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a proud U.S. citizen and have no intention of moving to another country. But I do have German roots on both my mother and father’s sides of the family. My maternal grandparents each came to the United States by themselves in their early 20s to make a better life in the Land of Opportunity. (They met on the ship on the way here.) My father’s side came from Germany a generation or two earlier, but the cultural influences from them were still noticeable in my upbringing.

As a kid, I had a strong desire to visit Germany. My parents did not travel overseas, so I did not give much thought to other countries I might like to see. But I did have something driving me to see the land where my ancestors lived. The few times we had relatives come from Germany to visit, I was very interested in their stories and what life was like for them. I studied German for 4 years in high school and college. I had made a decision that one day I would get there.

My job as an editor has its perks; one of these is the opportunity to visit places that I otherwise likely might never see. In 2010 I saw Germany for the first time as I visited the parts2clean show in Stuttgart. This annual trade fair for industrial parts and surface cleaning features more than 250 international exhibitors and attracts about 5,000 visitors from roughly 50 countries. (The 2014 edition of the show will be June 24-26. Visit parts2clean.de for more information.) This trip was not my first overseas; I had been to England, France and Japan to visit other tradeshows and machine tool suppliers. But it was certainly an opportunity for me to cross an item off of my bucket list.

What surprised me, though, when I arrived in Germany was the general sense of comfort and familiarity that I felt as I heard the language, ate traditional German foods and saw some of the customs in action. It had been 25 years since I had studied and practiced the language, so I certainly wasn’t able to seamlessly blend into the culture. But a part of me felt as if I had been there before or that I somehow belonged.

Each trip back to Germany since then has felt a little like a homecoming for me. This year’s visit, my fourth, brought me near Munich, in Bavaria, where my grandmother grew up. I was even closer to my roots, and I sensed it. I wanted to walk the streets and talk to people as if they were long-lost friends. But time was short.

I did, however, have the opportunity to attend the open house of DMG Mori’s Deckel Maho plant in Pfronten, which drew 6,000 visitors to tour the facility and view 73 different exhibits, including eight world premieres. Efficiency and optimization were key themes during the week as the company demonstrated its approach to managing complex processes more easily. Overall, 19 machines displayed the company’s new design, and 18 included CELOS control technology.

During a press conference early in the week, company leaders presented information regarding the company’s continued growth, including the facility in Davis, Calif., which opened in 2012, one in Tianjin, China, which has been in operation since October 2013, and facilities in Ulyanovsk, Russia, Tokyo, Japan, and Winterthur, Switzerland, that will be opening this year. More details covering the week’s events are available in a recent blog post.

Knowing there’s another place that seems almost like home, particularly a place so far away and relatively unfamiliar, is interesting. I wonder if there may be other places in the world, as yet unexplored by me, that may also feel as comfortable. For now, I’ll anxiously await my next visit to Germany.

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