Friday Germany Expat Survey

To all the other expats out there in Germany, I have a question for you.

This week in one of my classes, we were discussing what people who are coming to Germany for business should know. I also had them come up with a list of strengths and weaknesses of Germans, and we discussed how they might be perceived by someone from a different culture. Then they gave me some homework, which was to come up with a list for Germans, and also Americans. 

I have an idea of what my list is, but it got me thinking about all the different perspectives that I’ve come across on my time in Germany, and I’m curious. So I wonder if any of you could help me out, and leave a comment about what strengths and weaknesses you would say are the signatures of people here in ze Deutschland. This class loves to talk, so a variety of opinions would be wonderful. 🙂 Vielen Dank!

Any thoughts? Leave ’em in the comments!


6 thoughts on “Friday Germany Expat Survey

  1. The most obvious to me is the strict working times. Like, you go to work at 8 and leave at 5. With few exceptions here. Americans, at least at the management level, are expected to be on call 24/7 and working 50-60 hours per week plus blackberry/iphone time for work is pretty standard. On the other hand, in my observations, Germans actually do nothing BUT work during work time, where as most of my friends do most of their blogging and FB posts during work hours, and then complain about how many hours they “worked” that week.
    Also, here, when on vacation, or out sick, you are OUT. Not expected to work. Totally different in the States. At even the lowest levels of ees, they are expected to return texts/calls about work. Basically, better for the employee. Not necessarily for productivity.

  2. I really agree with Mandy above. As an American that is now working in a corporate office in Germany, I would also add the level of directness. Germans will say, literally translated, 'This won't work' 'This isn't a good idea' and 'You are wrong', but it is not to be taken at a personal level. I wonder how many relationships have gone sour in the past over this issue.. In the U.S. we would commonly say 'There might be a better altnernative,' or 'It's a great idea but let's wait it out..'Another least in my workplace, nothing personal is discussed. If you ask a German about their family or what they did on the weekend, they might have a blank and confused stare and not know how to answer this question…then simply ask a work-related question in return or walk away. In the U.S., everyone knew about most people families, if they had kids, where they worked before, etc.. Just speaking from my work experience personally, there is without a doubt variances from workplace-to-workplace in both countries.

  3. I tried to post this comment twice now lol. But The Bop works in finance 50-60 hours a week, and is expected to take phone calls/emails on weeknights, weekdays, weekends, vacation and even when he's out sick. So I think it really varies which industry you work in. He values his own usefulness by how productive he is during his working hours, which he assures me is a very German trait. Whereas I was working in NYC and did nothing for hours at a time and didn't feel even the least bit guilty about it, or useless for that matter. What I do think is interesting is that he has work friends, that he may share some personal details with, but will never see them outside of work because he says they don't really do that. What we do agree on is that Germans are not the best when it comes to brainstorming for new ideas, mainly because they are too slow to implement new ideas or solutions, which drives me a bit crazy and something I experienced working over here. The Bop says that we Americans are too quick to offer solutions that we often aren't sure will work, which he says Germans don't want to take the risk of doing. I know Americans are… quicker and maybe a bit impatient. They are direct, even when trying to be nice about it, and that's efficiency for you. My personal experience working over here wasn't that good– not everyone was willing to accept I came from a different culture and that I spoke a different language that might make it difficult for me to fit in. And as such, I had problems with that, and I almost never got any sympathy for it. But alas, I agree with Anonymous, it really does vary from workplace to workplace.

  4. Agreed, I think the work-life separation is a big thing here. Maybe not better for productivity, but as someone who pops in and out of companies on a weekly basis, I hear a whole lot less “I hate my job” complaints than is normal in the States. Thanks for the comment Mandy!

  5. Personally I love the directness! It's great for me as an English teacher when they tell me, “I'd like to do more … and less ….” But if I was coming from another country, I can see where that would be, shocking? For lack of a better word.

    I'm surprised and not surprised at your thoughts on personal contact. Sometimes I feel like I'm prying when I ask what they did on the weekend, but I think it also depends on the person. I know all about some students' families, but nothing about others. It's definitely different though… thanks for responding!

  6. Gah, comments have been weird lately, sorry!

    I know your guy works mad hours, which isn't really the case with most of my students, but… different fields. I'd say they make much better use of their time overall then people in the US do, like Mandy said about about blogging and FB-ing during work times. Brainstorming is a challenge for sure though, you are right. Creative tasks without prep are also tremendously interesting… try asking a bunch of engineers to write a simple recipe. You'd think I would have asked them to solve world hunger by the level of bewilderment. But the American impulsiveness also confounds them. Very interesting on all sides. And I know you had a rough go-around, but they're not all like that. At least, I don't think so. 😉

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