160 hostesses, hosts, drivers, technicians, protocol and press assistants are looking forward to an Italian summer
Just under a month before the opening of Expo 2015 on the 1st of May, all the members of the German Pavilion team have arrived in Italy. Principally it is the hosts and hostesses who will be taking care of the visitors to the “Field of Ideas” during the 184 days of the world exhibition. However, the team also includes drivers, technicians and assistants for both press activities and for protocol. Between November 2014 and January 2015, the Messe Frankfurt interviewed around 450 candidates in 27 assessment centres in Frankfurt and Milan. This included testing their linguistic abilities, their knowledge of Germany and their ability to cope under stress situations. 160 passed all the tests successfully and were given a contract and have now moved into their apartments at three locations in Gallarate in the Varese Province. With around 50,000 residents, the town of Gallarate lies to the north-west of Milan, about half an hour from the Expo site. The Milan-Malpensa airport is also just around the corner. Some of the team members actually come from Milan and will continue to live at home.
The hosts and hostesses, who are part of the complete pavilion team of around 170, will be sharing accomodations with one or two others – like 27-year old Tiziana Oliva from Cologne, for example, who has just completed a course as an interpreter and translator for German, English and Italian at Heidelberg. She is looking forward to the “Italian summer”, which is how the recruitment team from the Messe Frankfurt advertised the seven month deployment. “As soon as I saw the advert about the German Pavilion, I thought, that’s the job for me. The Expo in Milan gives me the opportunity to gain my first experience of working abroad and to put the language knowledge that I gained during my studies to practical use and to build on it. I often worked as a hostess during my studies and feel well prepared for the work ahead. I am really looking forward to meeting people from across the world at the Expo in Milan and to laying the foundations for my future career.”
The successful applicants had to be able to offer at least very good Italian, German and English. But Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish, Czech, Russian, Serbo Croat, Turkish and even Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese will be spoken in the German Pavilion, a total of 16 different languages. 20 million visitors are expected in Milan by the time the exhibition finishes on the 31st of October. It is estimated that 30% (6 to 8 million) of those will come from outside of Italy. “Our team is our business card,” explains Dietmar Schmitz, the Divisional Head from the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, as the philosophy of the German presence in Milan. “Greeting our guests on the pavilion is more than just giving them a warm welcome. It is communicating with them in their own language where possible. This is well received by visitors.” This is the experience that the Commissioner of the German Pavilion has made at all Expos that his organisation has been responsible for. For Dietmar Schmitz himself, this is the sixth Expo he has been involved with since 1998.
The team is also well set up in terms of the nationalities that are represented in the pavilion. 35% of them are German, 54% Italian, 7% have a German-Italian background and the remaining 4% are split across other nationalities such as Chinese, Brazilian or Moroccan. The German Pavilion is colourful, just like Germany itself. “We want to present an authentic picture of Germany in Milan. And our team of people working there is a crucial part of this,” explains pavilion director Erol Altunay from the Messe Frankfurt. His company is responsible for the complete organisation of the German Pavilion and therefore for the people working there. His team will also now be carrying out the training of the pavilion team together with the exhibition designers Milla & Partner and the architects, Schmidhuber. Because now it’s “back to school”. The subjects that have to be covered during the training include the concept of the “Field of Ideas” pavilion, both in terms of its architecture and its contents, and learning about the more than 100 projects that can be found on the topic of nutrition in the pavilion, in order to be able to explain them to the visitors during the 184 days of the exhibition. And the team also has to understand the operation of the interactive SeedBoards that each visitor is given as their own “Field of Ideas” and to help the guests as necessary to use them to call up exhibit explanations and to start films or games. It is also important that they understand the complex pavilion logistics. The site covers almost 5,000 m2, with the exhibition itself covering almost 2,700 m2.
How do the visitors gain entry to the pavilion? How does the queueing system work? How many people can watch the show in the German pavilion at the same time and when do the doors have to be opened to let people in or out? What do I do in the case of an emergency? Who do I contact when there are press or protocol questions? How do I greet a state president? These and other questions are on the curriculum during the days ahead of the start of the Expo on the 1st of May. Then all the answers have to stored away for future use by all those involved. “We are excited to learn more about the concept of the German Pavilion and what it contains. Our job will be to greet the visitors to the pavilion and to provide them with information. That’s why we have to be well prepared and to know exactly how things work,” explains one of the hosts, Carlo Marco Valentini. Carlo is 32 and comes from Rome, where he has been working until now as a tourist guide. He learnt German at the German School there and has lived in Germany for almost ten years. “The training has been very well organised and we are confident that we shall be well equipped for our duties in the German Pavilion,” adds his colleague Chiara Marchi. The 26 year old lives in Munich, where she studied Intercultural Communication, Romance Philology and French.
16,000 visitors are expected daily at the German Pavilion, giving a total of almost three million by the end of the Expo. The world exhibition is open seven day a week, from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm. The German Pavilion closes its exhibition at 9:15 pm. After this time, visitors have the opportunity to eat at one of the two pavilion restaurants or to enjoy the Italian summer on the freely accessible deck, accompanied by some snacks at the picnic area there. For sure, there will also be some cultural “delicacy” or other to savour on the pavilion stage. Needless to say, not all the members of the team will be working every day from 10 in the morning till 11 in the evening. They will work in three shifts. The early shift goes until 4:30 pm, with the late shift taking over at 4:00 pm until 11:00 pm. Team members on the third shift have the day free and the whole thing is done according to a rotation principle. All hostesses and hosts must be able to cover all the jobs in the pavilion. “Moving staff between different shifts and different positions is an important organisational point, because it is crucial to have variety in the day-to-day work. In this way a stressful job can still be fun, even after many days and weeks of the Expo. For this reason as well, we will be holding a big party, the ‘Bergfest’, in the pavilion with our staff halfway through the Expo,” reports pavilion director Erol Altunay. This party is just one element of the staff concept that his team has developed in collaboration with the German Federal Ministry of Economics. Now it is important that the team grows together. And an external sign of this “teamness” will be the pavilion outfits. For that reason, one of the next points on the programme will be the trying on of the outfits that have been specially developed for the team in the German Pavilion.
You can find more information about the outfits and also about the concept of the German Pavilion in general under www.expo2105-germany.de