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Culture Standards: Germany

(from the perspective of several other countries, based on business interactions)

- Overview Objectivism, Subject Orientation Many people from other countries who interact with Germans in business encounters, experience the Germans as placing the top priority on the certain objective and the task of the interaction. The relationship level on the other hand often plays a minor or subordinate role, as collaborating with others does not necessarily mean establishing a social relationship beforehand. (SchrollMachl, 2008, p. 50). In this professional context the persons interact with one another on the basis of their roles and responsibilities (ebd., p. 50). In order to discuss professional things, many Germans dont need to have a personal relationship or know personal things about their business partner. Objectivism can also be observed regarding the fact, that Germans highly value experts: Someone who has a deep knowledge in a certain field is regarded as an expert. That is expertise derives from knowledge (especially gained through academic study or professional training) and not that much from age or inherited status. Individualism Personal autonomy and independence are highly valued among most Germans. Parents already foster this independence by making their kids take over responsibility for themselves, make their own decisions and take responsibility for those. This continues in work life as well. Many Germans appreciate it, when they have responsibility for their own work. Germans do work in teams as well, but compared to more collectivistic countries, Germans dont depend on their group and dont need the other members to achieve and gain personal success. Appreciation for Rules, Regulations and Structures. Rules, regulations and structures are regarded as very important in Germany. And as most Germans value the rules and structures, they normally obey them strictly. And if there is someone who does not obey the rules, even people who are not involved can start to reprehend the rule breaker. One reason why Germans put such a high value on the rules, they set up is, that they have a strong need for security and the rules and structures give them a feeling of order and security. Low Context: the German Style of Communication We say what we mean, and mean what we say (at least regarding objective, business things). Business communication generally stays on the objective level focusing on the common goal. Therefore communication in Germany is often just fact-oriented and objective, personal notes are not expected. Part of this low context communication is that most Germans value it, when criticism is passed on openly, as it is supposed to be criticism of the subject in question and not criticism of the person.

Interpersonal Distance Differentiation, Separation of Personality and Living Spheres Most Germans have a highly differentiated net of contacts, which ranges from distant acquaintances over colleagues to acquaintances, friends, family members, close friends, very close friends (positions can vary of course). The behaviour towards people differs according to the relation Germans have with them: The closer people are, the more open, personal and intense the contact will be. Towards those people who are not as close as good friends Germans behave in a very polite but distanced way, in order to save their privacy. Apart from that Germans differentiate between their private and their business life. It is valued when those spheres are not mixed with one another, that is business life should not intrude the private life and vice versa. Rule-Oriented, Internalised Control Many people in Germany regard (most) rules as for the best and therefore people behave according to those rules without external checking-up. In the work internalised control can already be found during processes of making plans, organizing and negotiating where Germans start to strongly identify with the task they have to carry out. From the individual perspective, this type of self-control is seen as a form of personal autonomy and self-determination. (Schroll-Machl, 2008, p. 96) Time Planning Time is money, Time may not be stolen Time orientation and planning plays a great role in Germany. Therefore planning is not only done in the professional sector but as well in private spheres of life. Compared to people from other cultures, Germans have a stronger tendency to set up step-by-step plans and act according to them. The importance of planning goes along with a high appreciation of punctuality. By being punctual Germans signalize appreciation and that they value their (business) partner (Meeting you is important to me, you are important to me, therefore i am punctual.)

Source: Schroll-Machl, Sylvia (2008). Doing Business with Germans. Their perception our perception. (2nd ed.). Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.