In today’s blog post, we’d like to address cooperation between Germany and Hungary. The economic relationship between these two countries is vigorous. Germany’s share of Hungary’s foreign trade amounts to around 25 percent. Germany is thus Hungary’s most important trading partner and its most significant direct investor. In today’s post, you’ll learn some fundamental tips to keep in mind when communicating with Hungarian business partners and colleagues.
Although numerous similarities between the two countries can certainly be discerned, cultural differences within Europe are often underestimated. Take time, for instance. The sometimes massive cultural differences between Germany and Hungary when it comes to time can quickly lead to disaster if you’re working as a manager in such a cooperation.
In both their private and professional lives, Hungarians tend to be more flexible with schedules. In the Hungarian culture, last-minute plans and the simultaneous execution of several tasks are quite common. While many Germans are prone to working efficiently, productively and at a constant pace, Hungarians tend to adapt to the prevailing situation. This means that interruptions and delays during business with Hungarians are considered completely normal.
This different way of dealing with time also affects the understanding of punctuality in both cultures. Many Hungarians ascribe less importance to punctuality than Germans. Especially when a person has a reason for being late that’s perceived as unavoidable, Hungarians tend to react more calmly. For instance, if a business partner shows up late because a family member unexpectedly needs help, Hungarians can probably better comprehend this tardiness. The reason for this is that interpersonal relationships typically hold more importance in the Hungarian culture than in the German one.
Deadlines as non-binding reference points
In Germany, lateness is often taken as a sign of disrespect or disregard for a relationship. In Hungary, on the other hand, deadlines tend to be seen not as binding arrangements, but rather as non-binding reference points. A lot of Hungarians see the completion of a task as urgent only if the task is being done for someone they consider important.
So what should you keep in mind concerning the handling of time when in contact with Hungarians? For one thing, for tasks to be completed on time, you should try to establish a personal relationship with your counterpart. You should endeavor to be perceived as supportive and attentive and not to limit your contact with your counterpart to directives. For instance, speak in terms of “we” when problems have to be solved. Involve your counterpart through targeted questions and ask for his or her opinions. This is the best way to establish trust.
Please also be mindful of the fact that a lot of Hungarians express their opinions in a rather indirect way when it comes to communicating criticism and negative messages, and they tend to be happy to deflect from the actual problem. If you want to communicate to your Hungarian project partner that the recommendations suggested at the last meeting have been ineffective, it’s best to do this politely and in private. Openly communicated criticism can easily be perceived as impolite or even insulting, and it can permanently damage a personal relationship.
If your next business trip abroad involves fostering intensive relationships with international business partners or if you’re supporting a long-term project abroad, you can learn more about our current range of cross-cultural trainings here.