Germany intercultural communication training

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  • Welcome everyone to first unit in our intercultural communication training series... Doing business in GermanyPersonal introduction:Hello, my name is Charles Rei and I have been living in Germany for nearly 10 years.I have been working as a Business English Trainer and International Communication Trainer for 3 years. My wife is German and I have two small half-German children. I am here today to give you some sense of German culture and how it relates to your business.This presentation is based on:My personal experienceConversations, interviews and written work by my intercultural communication colleagues, including what they trainIntercultural Communication theories and research
  • The purpose is to help you understand how German culture affects communication, relationship building, and teamwork.It is not:A travel guide.For example, items such as dress, tipping, transportation, etc. will not be covered today.For specific information when travelling to Germany, there will be references at the end and most travel books will provide you with a wide range of information before travelling to Germany. Specifically, I recommend looking into the specific city or region you are visiting because travel tips vary.
  • Run through agenda.Often we believe that we understand German culture more than we really do.The difference between public and private lives is very pronounced in German culture. Taking a look at this topic will help us understand how German colleagues view work relationships.Then we will look at German communication styles and decision making to help you understand the differences when working with Germans.Finally, a few business etiquette basics based on German culture and thinking.
  • Because Germany‘s international influence is so great, there are often misconceptions about German culture.Especially in the US, which received millions of German immigrants, visitors may feel falsely familiar with German culture.So let‘s start by analyzing the most common stereotypes of German culture.
  • Not true.The beer and bratwurst stereotype is Bavarian, not German. There are significant regional differences and most people are proud of their region. For example, if you travel to Berlin expect to eat doner and currywurst, and you will rarely see lederhosen. Therefore, it is best to ask colleagues and hosts about their particular region, without references to waitresses carrying giant beers (unless you are in Munich).Dialect: Source of regional identity, however, among upper-levels of society Hochdeutsch is the norm. Germans typically love to talk about their region, and will have a weaker identity as a German nation.BerlinEast Germany (Saxony)Bavarian and FranconianThe CoastIndustry and Economy:South – rich, largest companies (BMW, Mercedes, MAN, BASF, Bosch, Siemens, etc.)West – industrial, blue-collar (Rhine valley)Reunification:Still noticableEast – poorer, higher unemployment, less-skilled labor BUT new investment in technology (optics, solor, manfucaturing)There is some residual animosity between East and West. Easterners tend to look back at 1989 as a moment of great change, both good and bad. Thousands lost their jobs because state industries went bankrupt overnight. Many young and educated people left for the west. Many small towns have lost nearly all their residents. The economy is recovering however, and Berlin has become a truly vibrant city, worth of being a world capital.Westerners often openly resent that they are still paying an additional development tax for reconstruction of the East nearly 25 years after reunification. Bavaria: (beer and bratwursts, traditional clothes, Octoberfest, etc.)The richest, most conservative.Most international images of Germany come from Bavaria (e.g. Neuschwanstein castle)Bavaria could be considered the Texas of Germany. Large, rich, and powerful. No symbol embodies this more than Bayern Munich, the most successful and most polarizing soccer/football team in Germany.The Ruhr:Heavily populated / industrial area in northwest Germany. Does not have any big name cities but is home to over 5 million people.Old steel and coal areaBlue collarStrong labor traditionCurrently working to revitalize cities and neighborhoods and support culture and the arts. They hope to define their image as Germany‘s steel belt.IN GENERAL:When working with Germans, take time to get to know the regional culture and traditions. When visiting, tour regional sites and try local foods. Your guests will be immensely proud of their region and impressed by your interest.
  • This is sort of true.Trains are on time, and riders complain profusely when they are even 5 minutes late.On time often means on the exact minute. Five minutes before or after is fine (they don‘t synchronize watches).Appointments:Showing up 15 min early will stress your hosts and cause confusion.If you are more than 5 minutes late, call and let them know, but do not expect that the meeting will end late because it started late.Despite this punctuality, most meetings are started with some small talk and relationship building (5-10 minutes).Additionally, spontaneous appointments are not the norm. Most meetings will be scheduled well in advance and dropping by is frowned upon.HOWEVER...When it comes to deadlines, Germans would rather take the time to produce a complete and quality product than rush to meet the deadline.Of course, they try to respect deadlines... but if it is not good enough, it won‘t be submitted.
  • True but changing.Germany is, on the whole, a rules based society. This is based on the belief that rules allow all members of society to benefit.Example:The Autobahn.Driving in Germany is serious business. Before an 18 year-old can get a driver‘s license, they must attend a strenuous driving school with a difficult theoretical and practical exam. Fees for these private schools can be over €1000 and getting a driver‘s license is a significant event for young people.On the Autobahn, although many parts do not have a speed limit, there are many strict rules. Only pass on the left, always use a turn signal when changing lanes, trucks cannot drive faster than 100 km/h (60 mph). They even have mandatory meters in the truck to measure speed and resting times. Police often stop trucks to check the recorded driving history and issue fines for speeding and long periods without breaks. In parts where the Autobahn has a speed limit, traffic camera speed traps are prevalent. Despite all these controls, most do not see them as a burden, rather a system which allows equality. Everyone has the same rights on the highway because of the rules.In fact, this is throughout society. People follow the rules without questioning. Jaywalking is minimal. Tickets on the subway are rarely checked, but nearly all riders stamp their tickets on the honor system. When travelling to Germany it is best to follow all these rules even when it seems no one will check. Breaking the rules of society is interpreted as enfringing on the rights of other citizens.Changing attitudes:This mentality is slowly changing however. Many people have come to see that the rules of society are becoming too pervasive and there is a movement to cut of this percieved government intervention. For example, to cut down a tree on your property you must get a permit from the government (with a fee) and plant new ones to replace it. Residents also pay a precipitation tax for rain and snow which falls on their land. These are simple examples, but reflect areas where many people feel there are many regulations.The role of history:Germany has a tubulant history to say the least, and it is certainly a topic to avoid with your hosts. During the post-war era, the public generally came to conclusion that to prevent these atrocities from happening again, strict rules are needed in society to guarantee the rights of citizens. Therefore, while rules and regulations may seem overwhelming to most foreigners, Germans tend to view them as necessary. It may also be surprising when German colleagues interpret the letter of the law, rather than the spirit in which it was intended. This debate exists in German society as well, but do not expect to be granted exceptions to rules easily.Humor:One area in which Germans speak against these rules is through humor and satire. Most Germans are quite well aware of the structure of their society. They typically express this through satire and sarcasm. However, because of the strong cultural context of this humor, do not be surprised if you don‘t get the joke. Also, it is best to avoid making satrical or sarcastic references with German colleagues because they could be easily interpreted as an insult. While many foriegners may view Germans as serious and humorless, this is far from the truth. It is merely that German humor is so contextualized that outsiders simply don‘t understand it.
  • Somewhat true, but underestimates the role of creativity and critical thinking.First, the term Made in Germanyis a sense of immense pride in German society. The belief (often rightly) is that no country in the world can produce the same level of technological innovation, quality, and reliability as Germany. A great example of this dedication is Porsche.The word quality itself has a different meaning than many places around the world. In fact, it borders on perfection. Products and processes are pain-stakingly designed and crafted to meet almost unthinkable performance criteria. This includes everything from sports cars to model trains and vacuum cleaners.The belief is that this level of quality is the result of hard work, high education, detailed planning, and sustained progress. It is rare to find products released with flaws. Nearly every aspect has been discussed, planned, analyzed, and improved. For foriegners, this dedication to quality may frustrate attempts to rush a product through development or release a sub-standard good. This dedication, however, does cause tension within many German companies because the time from product concept to launch can be quite long. This may be one reason German companies do not perform well in the consumer electronics industry, where development time is so short.The second aspect of quality is that Germany‘s education system develops specialists from an early age. At the age of ten, children move into a three tiered school system based on identified potential. The top tier will enter the university track and prepare for careers in law, medicine, business management, academia, etc. The middle and lower tiers will learn more job skills and prepare for their apprenticeships at age 16. Starting their apprenticeship, these trainee employees will be educated as specialists in a field, such as business administration clerk, nurse, technician, or machine builder. This continued education can last for up to five years. Careers changes are rare, and most stay in the job/field they started at 16. Therefore, you can assume that your colleagues in Germany are extremely well trained for their jobs and experts in their specific field. In fact, a 35 year old employee will often already have nearly 20 years experience in the business and their job area. Compare that with a US worker with a bachelor‘s degree but much less practical experience.HOWEVER...This does not mean that German employees lack creativity or critical thinking skills. In fact, these are highly prized assets. Because the workers are so well trained, they are encouraged to constantly question and improve traditional processes and products. The mentality is that only by having a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of the process can you recommend workable improvements. Foreign managers may face this difficulty when proposing changes to the organization soon after taking charge. German colleagues may feel the manager does not have enough knowledge of the system to make changes. Therefore, it is often best to starting by learning as much about the organization as possible and proving expertise before trying to implement change. The same is true for trying to implement changes rapidly. German colleagues may feel that not enough time has been given to allow for creative and critical thinking to take place.TAKE QUESTIONS ABOUT GERMAN CULTURE ASSUMPTIONS
  • At this point it helps to dive deeper into the German understanding of private and personal spheres because it may be different than other cultures around the world.This mindset affects everything from using first names to building life-long relationships.For many Germans, the separation of their public and personal lives is key and faces challenges from modern communication technology.
  • For many Germans their public lives consist of colleagues, aquaintences, and social clubs and groups. At face value, it may seem that Germans are secretive about their personal lives. This is not true. In fact, regarding subjects they view as public, they will be very forthcoming and detailed. This may come as a shock to foreigners who may manage personal and public information by revealing different levels of information on a wide range of topics. Germans, on the other hand, may not want to discuss one topic at all, while talking in depth about other subjects. For example, you may find your German colleagues will not even say if they are married, yet tell you everything about their childhood. It is simply a matter of what is considered public and private. If it appears your colleague does not want to discuss a certain topic, it is best to try something else.Some things that may be new to foreigners:It is rather rare for colleagues to meet each other outside of work. Visitors may be surprised that colleagues know quite little about each other outside the office, such as buying a house, how the children are doing in school, or if they are thinking about buying a new car. Therefore, if you are travelling to Germany, dinner or drinks with colleagues may not be on the schedule. If it is, guests should understand it is probably not a regular occurance. Colleagues will build long-term relationships, but they may never reach beyond the professional aquaintance level.In German, the words aquaintance and friend are distinct and specific. The language also has different personal pronouns for you like other languages, du and Sie. However, instead of being based on formality, they are based on proximity. It is very difficult for foreigners to understand when to use the two different pronouns, even after years of working together. The most noticable difference will be the use of first and last names. Colleagues and aquaintences will often use last names for an extended period, sometimes forever. As a visitor accostommed to using first names, you may encounter an interesting situation. You could be on a first name basis with your German colleagues (they are typically aware that first names are often more common in other cultures), but they will use last names between themselves.Social groups and clubs play a large role in public life. Club membership is way of being active in the community, and the organizations may be highly formalized, with set meetings, agendas, projects, and officers. These could include sports fan clubs, gardening clubs, the volunteer fire department, etc. Because many Germans will remain in the same town as they grew up, sometimes these club loyalties are deeply embedded. When making small talk with German colleagues, club membership can be a great topic. They will often be happy to talk about their position in the club, recent meetings, projects / fund-raisers, etc.
  • Google caused a small uproar in Germany when it began driving around recording neighborhoods for its Google Street View. In German culture, even a photo of their house was a step into the private sphere. Thousands of households went online to blur out the images of their homes on Google Maps. This is just one example of how social networking and internet site data collection cause anxiety among many privacy conscious citizens.For most Germans the private sphere includes family, friends, and information about personal goals / dreams.Family:In regards to family, German society could be considered conservative. Children may continue to live in their parents‘ home well into their 20s. Often, houses are divided into several apartments, perhaps with three generations living under one roof. Children generally view caring for their elderly a valuable duty. However, just as long discussions about the family do not normally take place in the office, long conversations about work do not usually happen over the family dinner table. For visitors to Germany, it is unlikely you will receive an invitation to a colleague‘s home, or even meet spouses and children. Offical social gatherings such as the office Christmas party do not usually include spouses. As a guest, it is not taboo to speak about your family, but you shouldn‘t expect to hear about their‘s in return and your hosts will probably not ask questions to find out more.Friends:The circle of friends in Germany is typically very exclusive. These relationships are very active and friends meet each other often at cafes, for dinner, around the neighborhood, or club events. Most Germans will not have extended circles of friends. As an outsider, if you find yourself invited into this circle, you should view it as an honor and indeed a lifelong commitment.Goals:Personal goals and dreams are almost always kept within the private sphere. For example, goals like buying a house, starting a family, or reaching a certain point in a career will probably not be mentioned to colleagues and aquaintances. Likewise, talking about these things may surprise your hosts and even cause them to question whether you are too ambitious.Individual Privacy:Finally, I have to recommend taking privacy into consideration when doing business with Germans. While on one hand, it may seem like personal information is easily given (e.g. job applications include photos, family status, age, place of birth, etc.), on the other, things like personality type tests are restricted or banned. Also, asking employees to give up free time to work on weekends or holidays may cause conflict. While team building in other work cultures may include getting to know each other better personally, most Germans feel effective work teams are created by developing good professional relationships.Mutual respect:Overall, the view of the public and private spheres is characterized by mutual respect. In a country where strangers live in close proximity, good walls make good neighbors. People respect the privacy of others and expect the same in return. Understanding this mentality will help you understand why relationships with your German colleagues may be different than you expect.
  • At this point, we‘ll look at discussion topics which are typically relationship builders and which are not.Good topics to build rapport:First, hobbies are a great topic and are typically in the public sphere. Hobbies are often life-long and taken to a professional level. For example, someone interested in keeping exotic fish may have hundreds of rare species and spend thousands of euros and many hours caring for them. A cyclist may ride hundreds of kilometers per month. Someone who loves travel may have been to places like Thailand, Honduras, New Zealand, and Morocco. Some hobbies can be very surprising and the dedication to the hobby even more surprising. But in my years in Germany, I have never met someone who was shy to talk about their hobbies. In fact, they would often discuss them for hours, never realizing that I wasn‘t that interested in every detail. You may even yourself invited to participate in collecting, group events, etc. Hobbies are a great way to build relationships and build rapport.Nature:You will probably encounter many hobbies which involve some contact with nature (hiking, cycling, gardening, horses, etc.). Nature and the environment plays a large role in German culture. Forests and parks are well protected, and well used. Leading healthy lifestyles, wellness, and organic food are all popular in Germany. When considering business projects, going green is the norm and not seen as a trade-off with profits. When visiting Germany, you may be surprised at dark conference rooms or colder than usual offices because of energy conservation. Furthermore, it may be surprising when colleagues go to a wellness spa for a week, paid by the company and health insurance company. Talking with colleagues about these topics can be very interesting and revealing. Sports:Germany is overall a nation of sports fans. Nearly every man, woman, and child will know the names of the starting eleven for the men‘s national soccer team. The World Cup in 2006 is widely seen as turning point in German society because it reignited a sense of national pride and positive patriotism not seen since World War II. Local soccer teams are followed religiously, and even prominent athletes in swimming, cross-country skiing, and basketball are well-known. Sports provides a great opportunity to learn about regional culture and build valuable relationships.Not so good topics:There is really nothing surprising about this list. Politics and global political events can be quite polarizing. Many Germans are only slightly interested in politics and religion even less so. Most Germans are extremely well-informed about national politics because news updates are broadcast hourly on every radio station and newspaper readership is high. However, international news receives less coverage. If politics does enter the discussion, many Germans will present their opinions unabashedly, often in extremely direct and extreme ways. This can be surprising to foreigners who may tamper their personal opinions more.With this, it is generally best to avoid topics related to globalization. As a major manufacturer and exporter, Germany has seen big changes from globalization. Most recently these topics include open immigration from Eastern European countries and Muslim countries, the loss of manfacturing jobs to Asia and Eastern Europe, the global financial system and the euro, as well as accepting English as a global language of business.Finally, keeping with the respect for privacy, rumors and gossip are generally frowned upon. Personal trust is highly valued and breaking that trust is taboo. It is best to refrain from talking about other people, even if you are spreading good news.TAKE QUESTIONS ABOUT PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
  • Okay, we‘ve talked about how the difference between public and private shapes German thinking. This is a good place to remind you that this training makes certain generalizations based on my experience in Germany and research. It does not, of course, apply to every individual. The goal is give you some insight when relationships or communication does not go like you expect.Next, well look at communication styles in Germany and how to best navigate presentations, meetings, emails, and other business communication.
  • You may be surprised when attending a presentation given by a German colleague at how long and detailed the analysis of a topic is. You could find yourself faced with an overwhelming amount of data and statistical information and be thinking, can you just sum this up for me and make your recommendations?This, however, does not fit with the German communication style. On the whole, Germans would rather draw their own conclusions based on the facts than accept a suggestion at face value with little background information. The goal of the presenter is to explain the details of the situation as clearly as possible to allow the audience to make informed decisions. Suggestions and proposals are welcomed, but only in conjunction with the underlying facts.Turning this around, you may be surprised when your recommendation is not readily accepted without the data to support it. Simply saying „I have looked at all the facts, and I believe...“ will often be greeted by detailed questions about the facts, requests to see the information, and hesitation to accept your conclusions. In German thinking this is not a sign that they don‘t trust you or respect your idea, merely that they want to see where you are coming from. Therefore, it is best to include the applicable data, graphs, charts, etc. in presentations and reports. Conversely, you should assume that decision-making discussions will only commence after everyone has been provided a comprehensive understanding of the situation.Overall, Germans are risk averse and do not trust hunches and gut feelings. This is not to say they are never followed, but are often confirmed with facts before taking the risk. Likewise, when presenting an idea to Germans based on a hunch, you will probably find less support for it than in other cultures.Finally, the threshhold for information overload is higher in German communication than in other cultures. Sitting in a presentation, you may find yourself losing focus because of information overload while your German colleagues are still fully engaged. The best advice is to stick with it and look at the information in context with your opinions on the subject. Ask yourself, do the facts support or reject my hypothesis? The presenter will do his or her best to explain the data.
  • In Germany, open honesty and frankness are highly valued and may seem overly blunt to foreigners. Opinions are often not softened and instead stated directly. Therefore, what you see (and hear) is what you get. It is important to understand that this is not impolite in German culture, as it might be in other parts of the world.On one hand, you will probably find this refreshing. Your German colleagues will normally express the truth, even if it hurts. This clarity and honesty is seen as the best way to improve the situation. Little white lies and overly diplomatic language to conceal meaning are not common in German culture. Likewise, Germans may interpret overly friendly behavior as superficial. A common reaction from Germans after travelling to the US is surprise at how friendly everyone is, but doubt that the welcoming attitude it authentic.One example of this is the German concept of customer service. When travelling in Germany you may be surprised at how unfriendly customer service can be in restaurants, call centers, and stores. This is because customer service is measured on results, not on friendliness. Therefore, customer service will be judged on whether the order was correct, it was delivered quickly, if problems were solved, etc., not whether the service was given with a smile. This same mentality will exist in your business dealings. Your German colleagues will often assess whether the desired result was achieved, not whether the discussions were enjoyable.Finally, you may get the impression that Germans complain too much. Again, this goes back to the idea that the truth leads to improvement. False optimism and glossing over shortcomings are generally not a means to improvement and progress.
  • Professional disagreement is valuable part of group decision making and project planning. Keeping in mind that most of the people in the room will be highly qualified experts in their field, this type of discussion is seen as a useful part of the critical and creative thinking process.When presenting a plan or opinion you may be surprised when you immediately hear several reasons why it won‘t work. In fact, this rejection might be stated in no uncertain terms and can be surprising to foreigners used to more tempered disagreement. However, no in this context should be interpreted as convince me. It could loosely be compared to playing devil‘s advocate in other cultures. The goal of these discussions is to refine and improve ideas through disagreement, not to reject ideas outright. Abandoning an opinion at the first sight of disagreement often means the idea was not properly thought out or based on fact in the first place. The best course of action in this situation is to defend your ideas if they are sound and use the disagreement as constructive criticism.This may be difficult to do in the moment because you may feel slighted or hurt by the direct comments. Remember that Germans will typically view the opinion and the person as two distinct ideas, and disagreement does not mean a loss of face. In fact, you should view disagreement and detailed conversation as a sign that your German colleagues are listening to your ideas and find them worthy of discussion and consideration.This often leads to in-depth discussions and debates to consider a wide range of alternatives and consequences. You may get the feeling the discussion is so wrapped in the details that the groups is making little progress. In fact the opposite is true, detail discussion and debate refines the plan and ensures a workable and effective decision from all sides.The corrolary to this is that you should not interpret silence as agreement. On the contrary, your counterparts may be questioning your opinions and find them not worthy of discussion. On the whole, you will see subdued body language of agreement (head nodding, smiling, etc.) and instead more body language of critical thought (focused expressions, chin scratching, curled lips, etc.). Again, you should not interpret this as outright rejection, rather that your ideas are noteworthy and valueable.
  • Finally, the discussion has ended and it is time for a decision to be made. For outsiders, it may seem like it takes forever to reach this point. You may be frustrated that a decision is not made in the first or second meeting, but instead after several rounds of discussion.As mentioned before, you will probably find your colleagues to be risk-averse. Germans also have a fairly low tolerance for uncertainty. As a foreigner you may be frustrated by the time it takes to reach a decision because management will want more analysis or information. They will want to have a good idea of all the consequences of a decisions before taking it. Be patient.In your dealings with German colleagues one refreshing aspect is that the person with the authority to make the decision will normally be part of the discussion. There will be less going back and reporting to the boss than there is in other cultures.That said, clarity plays an important role in decision making and the manager will want to have as much information as possible before choosing a course of action. The result is that decisions are normal made with detailed plans in place. German planning is typically very detailed and specific, and after a plan is made there are few changes. In short, they will take the time to refine the plan and less open to later changes. There is very little play it by ear or figure it out as we go along. Later problems are usually handled on the basis that the plan is good and how unforeseen situations can be resolved to get back on track.The lengthy decision making process often leads to an overall consensus, but you should not assume that harmony and total agreement are paramount. The final decision may not be perfect to all stakeholders. Instead, you should see the plan as the best possible solution for all and follow it. In other cultures you may disagree with a certain aspect and leave it for discussion at a later stage. With German colleagues, they may be surprised by your disagreement after the plan is already in place and question why you didn‘t mention it during the planning phase. Therefore, you will find it difficult to change things after the ball has started rolling.TAKE QUESTIONS ON COMMUNICATION STYLES
  • Finally, today we will take what we have seen about German culture and communication styles and extract a few dos and don‘ts for your business in Germany.
  • Okay, things to do.Punctuality is the norm. If you‘re running late, let them know. Likewise, avoid making spontaneous meetings and changing schedules at the last minute.Rules are respected in Germany. Buy a subway ticket and stamp it on your own accord. Around the office, follow the simple rules. Put coins in the jar at the coffee machine, park in authorized spaces, etc.When meeting hosts or German visitors, show engagement and purpose with a firm handshake and eye contact.Engage in small talk and get to know your counterparts before a meeting. Small talk is respected and valued. Learn about local and regional sites, food, traditions, etc. Show interest in hobbies.During the meeting, support opinions with facts. Don‘t expect your ideas to be accepted without tangible support.Participate in discussions. This will show that you are considering the issues and making an effort to refine ideas. If you have an opinion on a decision, it is best to state it upfront. Waiting until the decision is made it too late.Accept invitations. If you are invited for dinner or drinks after work with colleagues during your stay, accept. This is typically a kind gesture from your hosts and is probably not a regular occurance. Accept with enthusiasm and ask if you can experience a local hot spot or popular local restaurant with local food and drinks.
  • Next, some things you should avoid.You will probably find fewer women managers and executives, but do not assume they hold different levels of respect in society. Give women the same firm handshake, do not be overly friendly, or treat women differently. You will find less chivalry in German culture, but good manners are always respected.Don‘t get comfortable. It‘s best to leave the suit jacket on and the tie tightened, even on a hot day. By the way, in the summer you will probably notice that air-conditioning is not common. In the conference room, it‘s best to keep your items neat and organized. Don‘t spread out. The same applies to body language. Putting up your feet on a chair, leaning back and crossing your legs, and leaning on a second chair (taking up large amounts of space) are not usual.Don‘t assume your colleagues will mix business and personal lives. Inviting spouses and families to social business events is uncommon. Asking colleagues to work late or on weekends because of a special project may be taken as a sign of bad planning. Likewise, don‘t expect that Germans will take work home with them.You may be surprised at direct comments. Germans are naturally friendly, but do not expect them to be overly diplomatic simply to save face. View this as respect for the truth and honesty. You may find it refreshing.Germans typically make fewer promises, but keep the ones they make. When promising to contact someone, send an email, etc., your colleagues will interpret it at face value. Think carefully before making promises, and ensure that you can actually fulfill them. Excuses could mean unreliability.As mentioned before, Germans are well tuned to superficiality and will be hesitant to trust someone who is overly friendly, laughs a little to hard, tells too many jokes to be liked, etc.Last, don‘t expect to shake things up. Remember that Germans typically think that a comprehensive understanding of the situation and process is needed in order to make improvements. Even if your colleagues are unhappy with the situation, they will probably not accept change just for change sake.
  • Last, a few things to be careful about.There are many interesting sites in Germany related to Nazi era and they are definitely worth visiting, but it best to avoid the subject with your colleagues. Most Germans have placed this period in the distant past and will not be interested in discussing it. You may also find that the fall of communism in 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990 is viewed through a different lens. There are mixed feelings about how it has impacted the country and the challenges they have faced since that time. Former East Germans and West Berliners will normally be happy to talk about how their life was different during the Cold War, but it is best avoid how East and West Germany continue to be different.Most Germans are quite aware that their culture is different than others, but in my experience they feel misunderstood. Images of beer and bratwursts and assumptions that they are unfriendly or uncreative cause some apprehension. It is best to avoid commenting on cultural differences, just as you would not appreciate references to your culture.German humor may be much different. Slapstick and antics are less funny, more thoughtful forms of humor, such as satire and sarcasm are more prevalent. Because German humor is much more contextualized, it is best to be careful. A little joke can go a long way at breaking the ice and building relationships, but be careful about being overly comical and avoid any religious, sexual or ethnic references.Last, be careful about asking personal questions. It best to ask some general questions and find out what your colleagues like to discuss. If you find yourself greeted by vague answers and changes of subject, it is best to stay off the topic. You may find yourself talking at length about past vacations or hobbies while avoiding families altogether. Keep the German idea of public and private spheres in mind.TAKE QUESTIONS ON DOS AND DON‘TS
  • So that concludes our training today. I hope you have gained a better insight on German culture and how it impacts your business relationships. Germans are extremely valuable and dedicated business partners and I think you will find that doing business there is rewarding and profitable.To conclude today, I would like to give you a few places for more information and give a few references for my training today. If you have any questions in the future about how to handle certain business situations, I am happy to answer them. I will provide you all with my contact information and I would love to hear your feedback.

Transcript

  • 1. Doing businesswith...GermanyIntercultural Training SeriesUnit 1Presented by: Charles Rei
  • 2. purposeThe purpose of this training is to gain a better understanding ofGerman work culture. This presentation provides an overview ofthemes and issues in German culture, communication styles, andetiqutte to help improve cooperation and collaboration withGerman colleagues. (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permittedAs with all cultural training, the issues presented do notrepresent all individuals. Personality types will differ in allsocieties. Instead, the training serves as a general guide. 2
  • 3. agenda• Facts and myths about German culture• Public vs. private spheres• Communication styles• Business etiquette basics (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted • Do • Don‘t • Be careful• Resources and references 3
  • 4. CULTURE What we think we knowFACTS AND MYTHS ABOUT GERMAN (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & 4 non-commercial use permitted
  • 5. Assumption 1 – beer andbratwurst• Significant regional differences • Culture • Dialect (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted • Industry / economy• Reunification• Bavaria• The Ruhr 5 Source: http://library.thinkquest.org
  • 6. Assumption 2 – punctuality• What on time means in German• Meetings and appointments (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Deadlines • Quality / completeness vs. punctuality 6
  • 7. Assumption 3 – order anddiscipline• Rules based society • The spirit and the letter • Collective enjoyment (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted of society‘s benefits • Changing attitudes• The role of history• Humor • Satire and sarcasm 7 Source: http://www.buffalorising.com
  • 8. Assumption 4 – a nation ofengineers• Made in Germany• The value of quality• Education • Identifying potential (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted • Developing specialists• Critical and creative thinking Source: http://www.porsche.com 8
  • 9. What to talk about and what to avoidPUBLIC AND PRIVATE SPHERES (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & 9 non-commercial use permitted
  • 10. public• Colleagues• Aquaintences• Social groups • Clubs (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted • Social mobility Source: http://www.businessinsider.com 10
  • 11. private• Family• Friends • Exclusive group• Goals (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Individual privacy • Assessments• Mutual respect Source: http://maps.google.com 11
  • 12. interests Good topics... Not so good topics...• Personal hobbies • Politics • Often taken to a • Globalization professional level • Rumors and gossip (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Nature and the environment • Wellness • Balance• Sports 12
  • 13. What Germans say and hearCOMMUNICATION STYLES (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & 13 non-commercial use permitted
  • 14. just the facts, please• Drawing conclusions• Detailed understanding of the situation (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Analysis vs. hunches• Information overload 14
  • 15. direct, not impolite• What you see is what you get• The power of truth• Customer service (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Complaining Source: http://mixedmedia.pro 15
  • 16. professional disagreement• What no really means• Person vs. opinion• In-depth discussions (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Silence is not agreement 16
  • 17. reaching a decision• Risk• Decision-makers• Clarity • Detailed planning (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted • Following the plan• Consensus Source: http://www.hermann.k12.mo.us 17
  • 18. Making the right impressionBUSINESS ETIQUETTE BASICS (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & 18 non-commercial use permitted
  • 19. do• Arrive on time, well-prepared• Follow the honor system• Greet everyone with a firm handshake and eye contact• Engage in small talk before getting down to business (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Support opinions with facts• Participate in professional discussions• Accept invitations 19
  • 20. don‘t• Treat men and women differently• Get comfortable• Ask colleagues to mix business and personal lives• Be offended by direct comments / questions (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted• Make tentative promises• Act overly friendly out of politeness• Expect to shake things up 20
  • 21. be careful• Talking about history / politics• Commenting on cultural differences• Using humor• Asking personal questions (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted 21
  • 22. (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permittedFor more about German business travel and cultureRESOURCES AND REFERENCES 22
  • 23. resources and references For more information References• The Economist “Doing • Jandt, Fred E. (2010). An business in Berlin” podcast Introduction to Intercultural http://www.economist.com/b Communication. Thousand logs/gulliver/2011/02/doing_ Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, (cc) Charles Rei 2012, attribution & non-commercial use permitted business_berlin Inc.• Guide to handling specific • Dr. Sabrina Mallon-Gerland business situations at Intercultural Communication Executive Planet Trainer http://www.executiveplanet.c Constance, Germany om/index.php?title=Germany http://cltmallongerland.word• BBC Country Overview press.com/ http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/e • Contact me for more urope/country_profiles/1047 information at 864.stm charles_rei@yahoo.com 23