Hachem Chaabene, construction engineer from Tunisia

Hachem Chaabene, construction engineer from Tunisia

Hachem Chaabene is one of 100 selected Tunisian experts looking for opportunities on the German labour market. With success: The young construction engineer is currently working for MEA Water Management GmbH in Germany. The company develops and manufactures drainage systems, and Chaabene is a valuable link with customers in the Arab world. GIZ is implementing this project with Tunisian engineers on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office and in cooperation with ZAV, the International Placement Services arm of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency.

You were just 24 when you left Tunisia. How does it feel to be away from home?
I come from a small town in North-Western Tunisia and I actually left home at 15, to go to boarding school. Then I moved to Tunis when I went to university, so coming to Germany wasn’t so hard. The internet has made the world a lot smaller, and I use Skype to stay in touch with my family. In any case, if I ever get homesick, I can always get on a plane and fly back to Tunisia.

So what was the attraction of coming to Germany?
Germany has a strong economy and it needs engineers – including construction engineers. There are good employment opportunities here, and the standard of construction engineering is very high. When I saw the GIZ advertisement and heard about this pilot project, I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity for me to create a more international profile. I could learn German, benefit from German infrastructure, broaden my technical skills and, if all went well, find a job.

How have you been settling in over the past few months?
I started with an intensive German course. I was a complete beginner, but I’ve achieved a good level in just six months. We’ve also has intercultural training to prepare us for living and working in Germany: it covered things like time management and conflict resolution, how to plan our work and manage our relationships with our colleagues, and the whole German mind-set. I moved to Augsburg to take up the placement at MEA Water Management. I really like it here: people are friendly, and I’ve made a lot of contacts.

What are your ambitions?
I’d like to stay in Germany. I speak Arabic, so I could be useful to companies wanting to sell their products in North Africa or the Gulf states. MEA Water Management also has good business relationships with Tunisia, so working for them as a project manager here would mean I could also work for my home country. Later, I’d like to set up my own engineering consultancy.

  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 1
    Since July 2013, Hachem Chaabene has been working as an intern with Germany’s MEA Water Management GmbH, which is part of the international MEA Group.
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    MEA Water Management near Augsburg develops and manufactures drainage systems. A colleague shows Chaabene drainage installed by the company.
  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 3
    Demand is increasing in Arab countries for MEA’s drainage piping and other products. As an Arabic speaker, Chaabene can help with communications.
  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 4
    Hachem Chaabene still thinks in Arabic, but he’s been learning German since early 2013. He’s achieved level B1, meaning he’s an ‘independent user’ of the language.
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    The German language was a real obstacle to start with, but Chaabene’s colleagues have helped him find his way around what the company does. Photos: Tristan Vostry
  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 6
    Chaabene is enjoying his internship at MEA Water Management. The 24 year-old can imagine staying in the company for a lot longer.
  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 7
    Chaabene commutes to the company’s offices in Aichach from Augsburg, where he is currently living. It’s a half-hour journey, and he uses the time to read.
  • GuG > Tunesien > Galerie > Bild 8
    Wissal Bennasr is an IT engineer who is currently participating in a project as an intern at Signalis in Munich. Hachem Chaabene meets up with her in Augsburg.
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    Over a coffee, the two Tunisian experts share their experiences of settling in to their host companies – and in Germany.
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    Chaabene shares a flat in Augsburg and gets on really well with his German flatmate. They enjoy playing chess together.
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    Chaabene likes outdoor leisure activities – table tennis, walking and shopping.