- /Laney Lovsteen
Business in Germany Summary:
In today’s ever-changing society, globalization has connected our world in a way that allows countries to make exchanges in ideas, goods, and business more than ever before. For my cross cultural research, I felt intrigued on learning more on the country of Germany. Delving deeper into the country’s culture, I decided to focus on the chapter of Business Culture within the country, to learn more about potentially working in the Germany workforce.
Within Germany, their business style is very much based on being structured, with a strong emphasis on professionalism and separating personal life from work life. To emphasize the professionalism within the country, “Both men and women value their personal space, and standing less than an arm’s length apart is considered uncomfortable. Men and women greet each other with a firm handshake and direct eye contact”(Global Road Warrior).This sophistication leads to their business to be extremely straightforward and efficient, rather than emotional or careless. An example of this can be shown through a business deal, where it is common for a German businessman to interrupt at any moment to present an issue or disagreement. To the Germans, their focus is not on the relationship of their counterparts, and business surpasses the importance of “feelings.” They are much more persuaded in a business deal by facts, statistics, and proof rather than following an instinct. So, someone looking to do business within Germany, should be well educated on the topic as “your degree of expertise and knowledge will influence the success of your proposal”( Global Road Warrior). If they are appeased by the offer, they will commence compromises, which can be extremely slow, as Germans scrutinize all forms of the deal in detail.
The idea of a hierarchy in the workforce is also very important to German culture, with technical ability and high education making a person more attractive to be hired. In Global Road Warrior, it states, “Inherited status isn’t enough to make an impression- accomplishments, academics, and otherwise carry more weight.” Only putting a spotlight on the importance of the hard work ethic that is seen in Germany, as the only way to obtain success is through the long haul and proving yourself. The hierarchy is also extremely critical when it comes to decision making. The greater the business deal, the higher up in the business food chain the decision maker will be in the company. Being so, “Germany’s largest companies leave the decision making power in the hands of a few,” so your position in the workforce hierarchy is extremely evident and important(Global Road Warrior).
Along with the professionalism of Germany’s workforce, they have also made huge progress in gender equality in the workplace. Germany has women well integrated and fairly treated in all public and private sectors of business, and even more favored when it comes to benefits during maternity. Contrary to what is seen in the United States, women in Germany receive equal pay as male counterparts, and it is a cultural norm to have a woman in a high ranking position. Typically, women in Germany wear suits or dresses in darker subdued colors, and match them with posh shoes. The idea of personal space is extremely important to both males and females, so the custom greeting to anyone is a firm handshake with direct eye contact. While progress has been made, “Germany falls a little short of complete equality in the political world, but the rise of Chancellor Angela Merkel to power has set a new standard in governmental involvement for women”(Global Road Warrior). This putting a spotlight on the fact that no country is perfect, but Germany has still made a great amount of progress towards equality in the workforce.
From the chapter about Business in Germany, my initial reaction was impressed with how straightforward and professional the work culture is within the country. I felt that the information I learned about Germany was extremely interesting, and throughout the reading, I found myself comparing the material about Germany with that of the United States constantly. Through the professionalism, hierarchy, and gender equality I found that there was much about Germany’s business culture that varied from the etiquette and treatment I am used to.
To begin, I first was extremely taken aback by the level of professionalism that is stressed in the workforce. In the United States, I would say that there is definitely a professionalism within the business realm, but definitely not to the same extreme as Germany. In Germany, I learned that being professional and direct is the utmost importance in a business deal. This means that there is less regard for the feelings and relationship of their counterpart. I would say this is different than in the United States, because while it is very important to be professional to show that the deal is important, the relationships are also significant. An example of this from my own experience, is seen through my parents, who own their own business. While my dad keeps a high level of professionalism while doing business, he has taken potential clients out for events like golfing or lunches. While this can be seen as more casual of a setting than a office room, there is an importance in ensuring that his clients are pleased, in order to make a business deal. As for a German company, they would see more value in doing extensive research into their counterpart, and meeting in a professional setting to discuss the matter, then negotiate with a fine tooth comb to ensure a successful transaction. Within the reading, it is even stated that, “Germans don’t make decisions over a meal and talk of actual business may stem mainly from their general apprehension about making small talk with strangers. The bulk of in-depth, business-centered discussions will normally take place before or after a meal, or at the very least, at the tail end of lunch, but almost never over dinner”(Global Road Warrior). Only reinstating the fact that German business are held to a level of absolute professionalism, while in the United States informalities can definitely be seen.
Next, the concept of hierarchy was another segment of the reading that stood out to me greatly. Since there is such a high level of professionalism, there is a stress upon the respect and etiquette when addressing the hierarchy. This is also something that varies from the United States, because even though higher ranking positions have more authority, most everyone is treated with the same level of respect and regard in American business. An example of German hierarchy in action can be seen as, “The senior member of your team is introduced first to the senior member of the German team. Then the German senior manager is introduced to your team. Next, your team is introduced to the German senior manager in order of rank, including brief descriptions of their roles and responsibilities. The German manager will then introduce his team. He or she will be seated in the center, with the next senior team member seated to his or her right”(Global Road Warrior). This intense order that must be followed in the hierarchy only further emphasizes the professionalism and seriousness that is seen through this culture. Comparing this to the United States, I once worked an office job that had a manager and a boss that were the highest ranking positions in the office. While I absolutely respected and worked harder in front of both for their approval, I wasn’t required to do anything extra to show them respect or authority, nor did I have to go in any order when approaching either of the two.
Finally, the last factor of the reading that I found most interesting about German business culture dealt with women in business. Within Germany, they have reached a high level of gender equality within their country. I thought it was amazing to hear, that it is extremely normal for women to be incorporated and obtain jobs in all rankings/sections of business. Personally, it is my dream to one day own my own business, so I admired a country where women aren’t still fighting for equal pay and treatment in the work world. However, no country is perfect, and still “Despite the respect women enjoy in society as equal partners with men, vestiges of gender-based expectations still exist. For example, women are still seen as the primary caregivers for children, as well as being responsible for general household maintenance such as cooking and cleaning. Men are generally seen as providers, despite the fact that many women work outside of the home”(Global Road Warrior). Putting a spotlight on the fact that even though Germany has obtained gender equality in respect and pay for men and women, there is still a stigma that the woman is responsible to tending to family and cleaning. However, I take this stigma as women are obviously more capable than men, and obtain the ability to be successful in work and a stable home.
All in all, I felt that this research project enabled me to gain insight on a culture that very much differed from what I am used to. I have always pictured myself to one day live abroad, as I am majoring in International Business, and have studied abroad two times. Being able to delve deeper into the business world, and see direct examples of how business is done in Germany was extremely eye-opening. I think that there are absolutely pros and cons that can be seen in both countries when comparing the United States and Germany’s business culture. Germany is definitely more strict, and the structure enforces a sense of professionalism that I do not think is seen as much in the United States. That professionalism enables Germans to be extremely straightforward in their business transactions, with little room for emotions to get into the way. Not only that, but having such a sense of hierarchy also creates a divide in German business, as the way to gain more respect is to rise in the rankings, which can only be earned by hard work and not connections. Finally, being a woman that is looking for a position within the business realm, I admired the gender equality that has been achieved in Germany. I think that the United States could absolutely learn from Germany in aspects of making business more equal for all people, and more efficient.
I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.