Germany: “Tolerance and compassion are not taught at the institute”

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“The main thing is to achieve results”

Oksana MILLER came to Germany from Bishkek over 20 years ago. She now runs the branch of the pharmacy in Esslingen (Baden-Württemberg). What qualities do you need to make a career in Germany? “Great desire,” Oksana is convinced.

In Bishkek, I graduated from a medical institute, received a pharmacist diploma, but when I arrived in Germany, I realized that my education was not recognized here, ”Oksana told our journalist. I had to start with practice in a pharmacy, and then pass various professional exams: first for an assistant, then for a pharmacist and administrator. In Germany, pharmaceutical education has three stages: the first assistant usually takes three years, and the highest pharmacist requires university studies.

And not only education, but the work itself is very different. In Bishkek, I also worked a little at a pharmacy, but there the main focus was on purchasing goods and preparing medicines. In Germany, the main task of a pharmacist is customer service. We tell our customers a lot about medicines and their properties.

─ At first I was surprised by the sheer number of pharmacies in Germany. Is the pharmaceutical industry so developed here, or are the Germans just very fond of being treated?

– The pharmaceutical industry is certainly very strong in the country, but it seems to me that the Germans themselves are very concerned about their health, thinking about the prevention of diseases. They come to the pharmacy not only for medicines, but also for vitamins, drugs that maintain low blood sugar, and cosmetics. And the task of the pharmacist is to choose the right drugs, for example, skin cream, to advise the best. This, of course, requires a lot of knowledge, constant professional development.

– It is known that a number of German doctors have agreements with pharmaceutical companies and, when prescribing drugs from these companies, receive a certain fee for this. What about this partnership in pharmacies?

─ Of course, we sell more drugs from the company that we bought. But at the same time, when recommending a remedy, first of all, we proceed from its effectiveness. True, there are a number of well-known “promoted” companies whose drugs are better distributed, despite the fact that their counterparts are no worse. And pharmaceutical companies do their best to interest us in their new products, send us information, conduct training. But this is already a matter of the pharmacy employees and their experience, to decide which goods are worth ordering and which are not.

I am not engaged in the purchase of medicines now. My responsibilities as the head of the branch include both work with personnel and control over the fact that pharmaceutical laws (and there are many in Germany) are strictly observed. The production of medicines and the formulation must strictly comply with hygiene rules; a certain temperature is required in refrigerators and rooms. Not only drugs are subject to very strict control in German pharmacies, but also many other drugs, for example, containing sulfur. In Germany, in general, in contrast to the countries of the former USSR, it is impossible to obtain any serious medicine without a prescription – from antibiotics to contraceptive pills. But this also imposes a great responsibility on the pharmacist. Before releasing the drug, we check everything at least two or three times in order to avoid a miss. But, of course, no one is immune from mistakes.

─ It is not easy for our person to make a career in Europe. How did you manage to head the pharmacy, having bypassed many local Germans in this position?

─ Of course, a lot depends on the age and knowledge of the language, and having arrived at the age of 50 without speaking German, it is probably very difficult to find a job. I was 20 years old when I came to Germany. But most importantly, I really wanted to work in my specialty, I dreamed of the recognition of my diploma. Then, after working in a German pharmacy for 10 years, I realized that I was already bored of just standing behind the counter, I wanted professional growth. And when I found out that a new branch was opening in our network of pharmacies, I immediately announced to the boss that I was applying for this position. And I am very glad that they took me to this place, because the work turned out to be really very interesting and varied. The day flies by completely unnoticed …

You know, in our business, you can achieve a career only by heading a pharmacy or by starting your own business. But for the second one needs a lot of initial capital and an accurate calculation of how profitable the new establishment will be. After all, many colleagues, unable to withstand the competition, simply close down.

─ Is it not easy to communicate with visitors of the pharmacy, with sick, irritated people?

─ Of course, we have our own specifics, and not everyone can, for example, get used to constant communication with the elderly. It requires a lot of patience, tolerance, compassion, which are not taught in any institution. A lot of lonely people come to us and not always just to buy medicine. Many people just want to chat or sit on a high chair in the relaxed atmosphere of the pharmacy. With such a person you need to talk about the weather, ask him about his health. And a few minutes of attention are no less valuable to him than the medicines themselves …

German teacher’s Russian accent

Larisa SHPARHUBER, a teacher from Lipetsk, has been living in Germany since the mid-90s. During this time, she graduated from the Higher School of Pedagogy and now teaches German and English at the local school. “I always explain to my guys: if a person came from another country and managed to achieve something here, this is not a fairy tale, but quite realizable. The main thing is to set a goal and achieve results. “

Photo from the family archive of Larisa Shparkhuber.

─ I first came to Germany in 1994 at the invitation of the Sputnik youth organization, ─ says Larisa. ─ 20 students from our foreign language, Lipetsk Pedagogical Institute, flew first to Berlin, and then went to Stuttgart. On the German side, Sputnik’s partner was the Water Rescue Society, headed by Alexander. Shortly before leaving at one of the parties, he asked for my address. I wrote it on a piece of paper and immediately forgot about it. Imagine my surprise when, after returning home, a few days later I found in a box a love letter sent from Stuttgart …

A serious relationship began with casual correspondence, and immediately after graduation, Larissa left for the south of Germany to marry a local German.

Larisa Shparkhuber: I was happy head over heels because I was going to my beloved one. And only three or four months later I suddenly realized that I had taken a very serious and decisive step. And I wondered what I would do in the future. It turned out that my Russian diploma was not recognized, which meant that I had to go to work. And where to? I was fluent in German, because it was my main language at the institute, so for a long time I taught this subject at the People’s University (VHS). But since this occupation is unstable and there is no permanent income, I decided to go to study again. Entered the Higher Pedagogical School of Ludwigsburg, to become a teacher of German, English and history for a basic school (Hauptschule). Some of the subjects from my Russian diploma were credited to me, and the rest had to be studied again.

─ Was it hard?

─ The greatest problems were caused by the English language: I studied it for only three years at the Lipetsk Institute. I had to additionally take lessons from a tutor in order to get a little closer to the level of German students who speak English fluently. I did a lot, wrote a diploma. Then my son, Mark, was born, and I had to spend a year at home. And after passing the first state exam, I went to school for a year and a half practice, which is compulsory for future teachers.

─ And what was your first impression?

─ As for discipline, many things were terrifying: the children were not accustomed to get up in class, they shouted from their seats. Grades 7-8 are considered especially difficult: with the onset of transitional age, children become completely uncontrollable. In addition, I am used to the fact that in Russia students are divided into strong and weak. In the basic school, most of the children are weak. This is due to the German education system, at least here in southern Germany. Basic school (Hauptschule) enrolls 90% of foreign children, and in some cities this figure is even higher. Most of them do not speak German, write with big mistakes and cannot master the spelling rules. So before the tests, I not only have to explain grammar and new material, but also do a lot of preparatory exercises, so that even the weakest guys write at least something. By the way, it is especially difficult for a woman teacher in a basic school to work precisely because many children from Turkish and Italian families study here. Boys in such families usually perceive a woman only as a mother and a cook, and they are accustomed to obeying their father.

─ How did your colleagues welcome you?

─ Curious. After all, no matter how correctly we speak German, the accent still gives out headlong. But they treated me very cordially. Many children of Russian Germans studied at the school where I was doing my internship, and knowing the language has always been an advantage, especially when talking with parents.

─ Is the work of a teacher respected in Germany?

─ On the one hand, the work of a teacher is highly valued, and school teachers have a fairly good salary. In addition, most of the educators are civil servants. It is not easy to obtain this status: unlike other enterprises, it is necessary to pass a probationary period of not 3-6 months, but 2.5 years. But after this, an employee-teacher can be dismissed from work only for very gross transgressions … On the other hand, apparently, the advantages of this status do not give many people peace, and the attitude of people in Germany to teachers is not very respectful. The press endlessly writes that there is no competition among school teachers, and they can teach lessons as they please. But this is not at all true. I am constantly preparing for classes and must follow the educational program.

Do your students know that you came from Russia?

─ I have never hidden it. Yes, they themselves hear, ask why I have such a strange accent. I tell you that I studied both in Russia and in Germany. And, in my opinion, they are interested to know that a foreigner has managed to achieve something here, not in his homeland. I explain: it is quite achievable, but you need to try … And I think I understand the problems of my students better than my German colleagues. Because I have other experience, and I can compare how it was at home and how it was here in Germany. I am a foreigner too, although I have a German passport for a long time …


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