Starting a job abroad and navigating yourself through international business relationships are two of the biggest expat challenges. Picture this scenario. You successfully finished your studies and now have a degree in, let’s say, management. It’s time to start thinking about your life after graduating. You’re focused on finding a job after studying in Germany. Some time passes and you’ve just started your job at the new workplace. We’re guessing you might feel overwhelmed by a barrage of German regulations.
We give you some insight into the values and work culture in Germany to ease your transition to the new workplace. These insights and how to interpret them for you depends also heavily on your own culture, the industry you want to work in and your direct superiors - read with care.
Structures and rules
Just like many other countries, Germany has several rules, regulations, procedures and processes for companies. German companies use contracts and agreements of all types. The existence of these contracts and their consistent application, the adherence to them and the rigid consequences for not complying with them, might seem different to other cultures. But the rules account for stability and mutual obligation. Depending on your country of origin this might seem low on flexibility and individual determination, but when looking closer you will find out that some rules are more flexible than others.
Formality and manners
German companies rely on their management. Depending on the individual company culture contracts, business negotiations and projects must be approved by the top-level management or can be signed off by you starting on day one. The same is with formality. It can be very important or not, manners on the other hand are always important. Being polite, arriving on time to work and meetings, following the agenda, are just examples of good manners.
Punctuality and time management
Punctuality is greatly appreciated in the German work culture. Calendars, schedules and agendas must be respected for effective time management in the workplace. Meetings are planned to detail and are expected to take place in the appointed time frame.
Communication in the workplace is very open and direct. Your German colleagues may appear rude without meaning to or even noticing it, but that’s not their intent. You might find that they also don’t easily recognise or respond to verbal subtleties such as hints and signals. Therefore, they can often miss the definitive content of an interaction.
Separating business and personal affairs
As with many other workplaces, German companies utilise strict separation between business and personal affairs. You may notice the behaviour of your German colleagues varies depending on who they are talking to. That leads to the stereotype that Germans are cold and unfriendly. On the contrary, deliberate boundary settings increase their efficiency on the job and reduce stress in their personal life.
Culturally specific behaviour can be explained on the basis of cultural standards. Understanding and respecting these values is an important basis for constructive cooperation between people of different cultures. Understanding the German work culture will help you to build and maintain strong and solid business relationships.
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