With almost 5 months ahead of me working as an interpreter on the site of a project being run by the German company KBA in Hangzhou*1, I was looking forward to finding out how my first job with intelliJOB would go! I had no worries regarding my professional qualifications: as a trained mechanic and a former chief designer at HONDA Econopower Racing in Japan, I had plenty of experience under my belt. Neither was I worried about my German language skills, which have never been a problem. But the thought of being an interpreter on the site of a major engineering project felt like a significant responsibility. After all, it is not just a question of translating words, but, just as importantly, of correctly interpreting the different ways in which people deal with things*².
I had one major stroke of luck: although the German employees of KBA had never worked in China before, they did have experience of working in many other countries. Steffen "Magic Fingers", as the German head of the KBA project site was known, had a good sense of humour even when the going got tough. On one occasion, for example, we were not getting the support we needed from a supplier and our work came to a standstill. At that point, Steffen "Magic Fingers" asked the Chinese customer: "Where is my air, where is my water?" The customer didn't like that very much and started to get angry, replying "I have no idea! That is not our responsibility! Look, just tell me straight: when do you need the air?" Everyone went quiet. Steffen considered this question with a serious look on his face for a few seconds while we all held our breath, then suddenly he answered: "Yesterday!" As soon as I translated this, everyone began to laugh and the tension broke.
And Steffen certainly lived up to his nickname. It wasn't just that he was very organised and always knew where to lay his hands on any tool. It was also that, whenever there was a problem with a machine, it seemed to us that he only had to touch it and it would suddenly start working again! Whenever that happened, he would happily point to his hand and say "You see! Magic fingers!"
When I look back, it seems that my time at the project site in Hangzhou went by in a flash. It was a really exciting time of my life and I enjoyed myself immensely. I have to say that intelliJOB is a great company to work for!
*1 Hangzhou is a metropolis of 6 million inhabitants located around 190 km to the south-southwest of Shanghai, the beauty of which was praised by Marco Polo himself. *² One of the things we learned when we were studying to be interpreters was that people in Germany respond to problems in a completely different way. If something goes wrong, German people tend to frown or take a deep breath, grumble a little bit and then carry on, whereas our typical response would be to smile or even to laugh out loud!