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Top 9 Things I Learned in Berlin

So I’m in Berlin this week talking to folks in Germany about social networks and collaborations.

In the course of conversations and beers, I learned a ton about how public service works over here in Germany.

Here’s 9 things I found interesting:

1) 41 hours per week – Professional civil servants work 41 hours per week. They have a job for life. Non-lifetime civil servants work 39 hours per week. I found that random the one hour difference than 40 hours per week pretty entertaining.

2) National University for Public Servants – They have a national university that trains public servants. I met a colleague here who went there and he said the university trains everyone from white collar public servants to cops. Wish there was a similar school in the U.S. (besides the military academies).

3) D-mail – The German government recently launched D-mail with the German Postal Office and with a number of private companies. Basically it’s a digital postmail box where you receive official letters and can do electronic signatures. I was pretty impressed how far they’ve got – and actually one of the companies has done a humongous marketing campaign to get people to claim their boxes (Disclaimer: there’s a bunch of companies in U.S. trying to do same like Zumbox which GL parent company has affiliation with)

4) States have a seat at the table – The 16 federal states of Germany have a more significant seat at the table with the federal level. They participate in councils like the CIO Council as well as Congress.

5) Social media is big – I went to a Social Media Club Berlin meeting that I thought was pretty big. About 100 people, a BBQ, and a speech contest where people defended their ideas about future of social media in 2020. Everyone at the event apologized for how small it was and that it was normally 3X the size. Personally, I thought it was already big and energetic.

6) Same big names – While there are some popular networks for Germany and Europe that are unique like Xing, most of the focus of social media was around the big three – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.

7) So much change – Berlin only became the government HQ for Germany about 11 years ago. Before then, it was Bonn and before that there was West and East Germany. It is impressive to see the brand new government buildings mixed in with traditional government buildings that have been there a long time.

8) Berlin is alive – I haven’t been to Berlin in over 10 years. The city is hopping now. Great food, great cafes, and a great energy.

9) Everybody loves the GovLoop t-shirt

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Government Transparency is HUGE in Germany. After the cold war and Unification, it is a very serious matter to be able to see what government is doing and how it is being done. Equally serious is personal data privacy. I also love their multi-party system, and that it’s OK to discuss politics at the table even if you don’t agree. Just go down to the Rathskellar and trincken Sie noch ein bier! Prost!