No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture


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Germans are generally very proud of their regional identities. It is quite normal for people to show more patriotism and loyalty to their local area than their nation. Each of the cities and states of Germany have their own emblems. There are over 50 coats of arms for urban and rural districts within the state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone. It is often more common to see regional flags and coats of arms in public than the national flag.

Some of the most pronounced social distinctions are noticeable between the western two-thirds of Germany, and the other eastern third. From the end of World War II until , the nation was divided as two separate countries under different systems of rule. West Germany became more cosmopolitan and industrialised, aligned with Western Europe and North America.

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Meanwhile, East Germany was ruled under a strict socialist ideology. As modern-day Germany has been unified for less than 30 years, the dividing line of the inner German border that once separated the East from the West is still visible in the geography of some places, and the remaining communist architecture often shows which towns were in the former GDR.

Temporary separation has also entrenched language differences that are subtly noticeable in the different names used to describe single objects. There is also a faint cultural division noticeable in the social differences between the East and West. For example, the Eastern population is markedly less religious, older on average and is less multicultural Statistisches Bundesamt, Social attitudes regarding political ideals can differ significantly depending on whether one lived in East or West Germany.

Understanding German Business Culture | Germany | Friendship

The economic disparity between the East and West is also still quite obvious and pronounced. It is perhaps one of the differences spoken about most frequently, as West German states pay a financial support tax to East Germany. East Germany suffered more material hardship over the course of its Soviet rule. After the reunification of Germany, most of the young and skilled East Germans migrated to the prosperous West.

The East has a higher unemployment rate and less disposable income on average per person Statistisches Bundesamt, Some Germans may express resentment about this disparity and the measures to amend it. The differences between East and West Germany often lead people to draw certain social conclusions about one another. Social Hierarchies. Germans tend to differentiate one another on the basis of their social ranking. People generally pay more respect to those with expertise, evidence of a higher education and experience.

One usually finds that the social hierarchy structures authority around these qualities. However, class barriers were largely broken down after World War II.

Germany for beginners - Part 1: Understanding cultural differences

Most Germans had to rebuild their lives from scratch after losing most of their possessions or being displaced. Therefore, the class system is not deeply stratified; most Germans share the benefits of the strong middle class and receive a comprehensive, classical education. As in every society, there are those who do not have as much privilege; a proportion of the population is unemployed or underemployed.

Recent refugee and immigration arrivals from the Middle East and North Africa also tend to find themselves in lower-paying occupations. Nevertheless, the dominant German attitude tends to aspire towards ensuring that everyone has equal access to opportunity regardless of their social background. Privacy is highly valued in Germany. People tend not to divulge a lot of personal information about themselves or discuss their political and social views when first meeting strangers.

Some people may also prefer not to invite acquaintances to their homes on a regular basis, unless they have a close relationship. To foreigners, this can make Germans come across as distant. However, one can understand why privacy is so important when considering how it has been invaded by governments in the past. As such, some people are sensitive to sharing their personal information and take precautions to protect their privacy to the degree they feel personally comfortable with.

Personal privacy is also important to maintain the socio-relational boundaries between people's professional and personal lives. Germans tend to compartmentalise leisure and work time, distinguishing their relationships with people into one of these spheres. The social boundaries in this sense are quite strong. People generally keep a certain social distance from those they work with. Individuals are expected to downplay any personal friendships they have with colleagues whilst in the office to detach their emotions from business.

It can take some time for people to break through this social perimeter of privacy and the formality of the professional realm. This may give foreigners the impression that Germans are quite aloof. However, these boundaries dissipate among friends. This assertiveness combined with their reserved approach to strangers can produce a misjudgement of them as having a standoffish public demeanor.


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Nevertheless, Germans usually become very open and personal once they find a common denominator with someone. From a German viewpoint, reserving warmth and friendly energy for those who are truly important to them gives their relationships greater integrity and value. Personal friendships are deeply prized. The time and sincerity involved in building such relationships can make them particularly durable and loyal. Germans are known for being industrious, orderly and punctual. People generally like to understand the context to interactions and what is required of them in certain scenarios.

Germans generally arrange to meet one another by clarifying exactly when and where they will be meeting, for how long and what they will be doing. Things are rarely left to chance. Matters that proceed without a scheduled plan are likely to be directed by a relevant rule, regulation or social norm. This aspect of the culture is not so different from many industrialised cultures wherein people lead busy lives. This is likely due to the fact that such organisation is coupled with a very direct approach.

In task-oriented cultures such as Germany, people do not always feel the necessity to build personal relationships in order to achieve a joint goal see more information in Business Culture. While they are still courteous, they generally do not linger on small talk. Germans tend to be exceptionally honest and straight-to-the-point.

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No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture

Germany classifies its citizens between ethnic Germans meaning people with two parents of mostly or full German ancestry and those of a migrant background Migrationshintergrund. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the portion of the population with a migrant background has peaked for the fifth time in recent years. The microcensus reported that However, it must be noted that ethnic German repatriates are included in this figure. Most Migrationshintergrund people reside in the western states of Germany and Berlin.

The eastern portion of Germany has fewer foreigners relative to the total population.

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Germany has generally embraced its identity as a multicultural Multi-Kulti country. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, roughly 3 million ethnic Germans have returned from former Soviet countries.

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At the turn of the century, Germany had been written off as the sick man of Europe. No more. Even as most of its European neighbors and OECD trading partners have struggled in the face of a turbulent global economy, the German economy has thrived. How does Germany do it? What is the secret? This book reveals, explains, and analyzes seven key aspects of Germany, its economy, and its society that have provided the nation with considerable buoyance in an era of global turbulence. These seven features range from the key and strategic role played by small firms to world leadership in its skilled and trained labor force, an ability to harness global opportunities through leveraging local resources, public infrastructure, the capacity to deal with change and confront challenges in a flexible manner, and the emergence of a remarkably positive identity and image.

The Seven Secrets of Germany have insulated the country from long-term economic deterioration and enabled it to take advantage of the opportunities afforded from globalization rather than succumbing as a victim to globalization. This insights can be instructive to other countries and refute the defeatist view that globalization leads to an inevitable deterioration of the standard of living, quality of life, and degree of economic prosperity.

Understanding German Business Culture

Read more Read less. Save Extra with 4 offers. Customers who bought this item also bought. Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. David B. Melissa Lamson. Survey of Accounting. Review "Just when so many are asking 'How did Germany do it?

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No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture
No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture
No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture
No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture
No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture No Such Thing as Small Talk: 7 Keys to Understanding German Business Culture

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