German Corporate Culture

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Germany is one of the major export nations of the world and a business powerhouse. German companies like Volkswagen and Bosch enjoy international reputations. With the ongoing development of the European Union and the increase in global trade, the possibility for foreign workers to land jobs in Germany is high. To acclimate to German corporate culture, foreign workers will be better prepared if they study both the culture and the language.


Clothing expectations vary widely not only from office to office, but by social rank as well, according to a Young Germany article. For example, in some German office cultures, the receptionist may dress casually, but the people holding higher positions in the company will adopt a more formal attire. The article advises people new to German work culture to dress more formally at first and to change their attire as the work culture may dictate.


Foreigners hoping to make acquaintances with whom they can meet in their off work hours may be disappointed by German work culture. Work and home life are separate. Additionally, in some work environments, it is unlikely that a German will invite his foreign guest out for drinks after work. He will assume that his foreign colleagues will have plans with their families just as he does.


According to an article in Young Germany, German companies tend to offer more flexibility to their workers. Some foreigners working in Germany report that they didn’t feel as if people rushed to get to work at a certain time. Additionally, taking frequent work breaks isn’t discouraged. However, the time offered by many German companies exists because there is a counter expectation—that workers will get their jobs done in the hours allotted to them to do the job. Additionally, it is expected that once a worker does return from break, he will be focused and work diligently at their jobs.


When in doubt, people who are trying to acclimate to working in Germany should revert to basic German cultural etiquette. A certain formality exists in Germany—so much so that the language itself has a formal and an informal version of words like “you." In traditional German culture, it was proper to address someone with formality by saying “Sie," which is the formal version of the word “you." This is equivalent to addressing strangers as "Mr." or "Ms." A good rule of thumb for foreign workers in Germany is to use formality until they are invited to be more informal. Additionally, differences in standards exist. According to the German Way, what is expected of a German by a German may be different than what is expected of a foreigner by a German.


German stereotypes like punctuality and efficiency certainly exist within the German work environment. However, as the German Way points out, often these differences are just as varied in Germany as they are in other countries. A foreigner who is unfamiliar with how that particular German corporate culture is structured may want to have a meeting with a knowledgeable staff member. However, she shouldn’t just expect to drop in, but rather should make an appointment with the person in question. Although some companies have open door policies, it’s not the norm in Germany.

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