Typical German + global business = success?

A shortage of specialists is seriously affecting the German economy right now, and it will continue to do so over the next few years. Contact between German employees and specialists from abroad will thus presumably become much more important in the coming years. In today’s blog post, we’d like to give you an introduction to certain German behaviors that, in some circumstances, can lead to conflicts and misunderstandings when it comes to coming in contact with other cultures.

Recent studies attest that the need for well-trained specialists in certain industries in Germany will continue to be sizeable over the next few years. This trend includes technical jobs in particular, but also increasingly jobs in the nursing sector. One takeaway from this, among other things, is that the German economy will come to rely on foreign specialists. EU countries are important exporters of specialists, but so are non-EU countries such as India, China and the USA.

To be able to understand the behaviors of other cultures, it’s extremely important to be aware of your own personal cultural values – or your “cultural goggles”. This is the only way to be able to understand what supposedly typical German values can cause potential problems when it comes to coming in contact with people from other countries.

Sequential time management and direct communication

cross-cultural training, Germany, time, directnessThere are countless assumptions about how Germans tick. They’re considered to be mostly objective and rational actors at work, they’re guided by numerous rules and structures, and time is considered precious and is organized sequentially [i.e., schedules exist, and tasks are processes one after another]. On top of that, Germans often keep different domains of their lives strictly separated from each other, they communicate [and criticize] rather directly, and they tend to be individualistic and thus relatively independent when it comes to groups.

Please keep in mind, this in no way means that all people in Germany are the same. There are, of course, a lot of individual characteristics. The aforementioned cultural standards are merely meant as a reference point indicating the fundamental differences between you and your foreign colleagues and business partners. For everyday work life, you should thus reflect on the following aspects, as these assumptions could be seen differently in different cultures.

  • German employees are expected to work independently and autonomously. If problems arise, staff members don’t have to be prompted to inform their superiors and all other parties affected.
  • Structures are particularly important and are used for numerous purposes. When it comes to solving problems, rules are favored because they entail the knowledge of other people.
  • Schedules are often made weeks or months in advance, and they’re adhered to as closely as possible. Activities are organized linearly [i.e., they build on one another].
  • There’s a strict distinction between leisure time and business. People tend to be emotional and relationship-oriented in private and rational and objective at work.
  • Direct and open communication is key. Discussions are also important, as they serve the goal.

To find out how these standards play out in your target country, we recommend taking one of our cross-cultural trainings – for instance, on India. These provide you with valuable information for effective communication, and they bestow a sense of competency for doing business abroad.


Andreas Riedel

About Andreas Riedel

Ich habe Tourismuswirtschaft und Europa-Studien/Kulturwissenschaften studiert. In beiden Fachrichtungen durfte ich mich auf ganz unterschiedliche Art und Weise bereits mit dem Thema Interkulturelle Kommunikation beschäftigen. Seit Februar 2013 bin ich nun Interkultureller Berater bei Eidam & Partner. Unser Unternehmen bietet Ihnen Interkulturelles Training, Interkulturelles Coaching, Consulting und eLearning zu 70 Zielländern.
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