Working with Germans

I am working for software wing of Siemens, Bangalore for the past 8 years. During this time frame I have travelled 4 times to Germany and have worked in Germany for a year. As a part of the work I have to interact with my counterparts in Germany regularly.

As a regular practice I under went the intercultural training regarding Germany. It was a big eye opener and I learned couple of things while working day to day with the German counterparts.  I will share them here. Since I am an Indian, the points may also reflect to some extent what Indians observe.

Communication

The German communication is mostly straight forward. If something is right they say it as right. If something is wrong they say its wrong. If there is a bad news they say it on the face. For eg if a German is not happy with you for some reason then he would say it directly on the face “I am not happy with the way you are doing this”. Also I have seen that they expect similar kind of communication back. And if someone does the round about communication beating about the bush they get annoyed. Being black and white is always appreciated.

Value of Time

The Germans are known for their punctuality. One thing that I have learned is they value other’s time a lot. If a German arrives late for a meeting the first thing he does is apologize. The next part of it is Germans value their own time a lot. For example if a German wants to work on a particular topic with full focus (undisturbed) he will block his own calendar and mark it as busy. And if the calendar says the time is free then really the German is available. One can send a meeting request. They balance the time needed for personal & professional activities well.

Inexpressive

The German people are mostly inexpressive. This is what the trainer said during the intercultural training. This description is given because most of the time the Germans look too serious and focused. In the office this is a routine one can note. Every morning once a German enters the office he will greet with “Morgan” meaning “Morning” and then starts his work. There is no gossiping, chitchat and in the evening “Tchuss” meaning “Bye”. When I was working in Germany I normally used to hear songs during work (with my earphones on) and sometimes I used to hum the song. Once a colleague of mine complained that it disturbed his attention.

But this description of Germans is not true always. I have seen them angry, depressed, happy, humorous & satirical lot many times. What matters is majority of the time they look serious.

Long term Planning

Germans are known for their meticulous long term planning. This is quite evident from the kind of projects they execute successfully across the globe. They are masters of long long (10+ years) planning. I have seen lot of initiatives when they reached me were planned, started & executed lot many years earlier. They don’t bother about immediate results. They really value long time benefits. That is the reason they plan, start, execute and reap the benefits in the end.

Documentation

The one attribute that I envy most is their ability and commitment towards documenting things. The documentation is not done just for the sake of process. It is done so that tomorrow it helps someone out when the author has moved on. And this shows when a German reads the document. He will read it with full attention (not skimming through) and trust the information. Also whenever some information is required Germans always look for a written document rather than running around people and pestering them.

Individual & Contradiction & Conflict

This is another attribute which I learned by experience. Majority of the Germans like to be individualistic than be part of a group. For example in a meeting when all the participants agree and one German disagree at the end of the meeting, everyone accepts that one among them disagreed. No one forces him to agree to the group. The individual who is disagreeing also never agrees due to peer pressure. Each one of them express ones own opinion.

Slow

At times I have felt that Germans are slow. Because they approach  everything very systematically. Don’t skip unwanted things. They don’t take shortcuts. They also don’t bother to rush through things. This all activities will definitely slow down things. But the outcome in the end is always fruitful.

This is a topic where people write books. A blog post is too short a space for such topic. But I just collected the most important ones that I could get.

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