The German economy has been growing continually for several years, which is reflected in increasing wages. More and more international workers are consequently coming to Germany, who are then confronted with the peculiarities of the German culture and business world. That’s why we’re dedicating today’s blog post to the putatively “typical” German characteristics and the cultural differences between the old and new federal states of Germany.
The prerequisite to understanding the behavior of other cultures is getting to know one’s own cultural character. The most internationally well-known German characteristics and values can be summarized as follows:
- Germans tend to act rationally and be objective at work
- Germans orient themselves according to numerous rules and structures
- Germans consider time to be valuable, and they arrange it sequentially
- Germans often strictly separate different spheres of their lives
- Germans communicate particularly directly – with all that that implies
- Germans are often individualistic and thus relatively independent of groups
It should be kept in mind that people in Germany are by no means all the same. There are naturally a number of characteristics that make up people’s individual personalities. The cultural standards mentioned here are merely a reference point to help distinguish them from other cultures.
Even 30 years after reunification, there are still some cultural differences between people in the east and west. Because of the different pasts and different social systems in the two parts of Germany, distinct values and modes of behavior arose to a certain extent.
Although the union of the two German states happened three decades ago, the cultural, political and economic differences are still palpable. For instance, the economy in the eastern German states is still not as strong as that in the west.
In the initial years and decades after reunification, the following cultural differences between eastern and western Germany have been revealed through studies and statistics:
- The day in eastern Germany often starts an hour earlier than in the west. For instance, schools and public institutions there open their doors at 7:00 a.m.
- People in western Germany are more willing to switch jobs for the benefit of their careers.
- When it comes to job interviews, people from western Germany are often more skillful at selling themselves. People from eastern Germany, on the other hand, appear to be more modest and tend to wait until they’re asked about their qualities.
- It has also been determined that people in western Germany often shake hands only on formal occasions, while people from eastern Germany shake hands much more frequently – for instance, whenever they say hello or goodbye.
- The majority of people from western Germany are members of a church. In eastern Germany, the inverse is true.
- And finally, a culinary difference: When you order a Jägerschnitzel in western Germany, you get a pork cutlet with mushrooms. When you order it in eastern Germany, you get a breaded sausage.
We’ll have to wait and see to what extent German unification causes some of these differences to continue to diminish over the coming years. Nevertheless, it has to be said that these points are merely general statements and certainly don’t apply to all people. Differences can be detected not only between eastern and western Germany, but also between northern and southern Germany and sometimes between individual regions and states.
These small differences should also be taken into consideration by your foreign colleagues who are in long-term contact with Germans. More detailed information on German cultural standards and the German business culture can be found in our cross-cultural training on Germany.