The Statesman Monthly Newsletter/Vol. II ( 2006-04-16 01:53:43 )

Monthly Newsletter/Vol. II

Hidden Differences – Focus Germany

“The essence of communication has more to do with releasing responses than in sending messages. It is more important to know that we are releasing the right responses than sending the right message.”

Edward Hall

The different ways in which people of different countries communicate have always led to misunderstandings. The danger of not understanding one another, of not being able to make oneself understood, being too blunt or possibly even insulting the other person are all experiences people have had when trying to express themselves clearly to members of other cultures. There are hidden codes that must be broken in order for the executive to develop the bridge of understanding through which any kind of success can be realized.

In our next two newsletters we shall begin our journey in developing the keys to unlocking these hidden codes and it is our goal to equip you with those necessary techniques and skills from which you can apply to all cultures when doing business internationally.

Culture can be likened to a giant, extraordinarily complex, subtle computer. It programs the actions and responses of people and it must be learned before you can make the system work. Most people approach the world with a set of internalized rules. The rules differ from country to country. For instance, advertising in the United States is concentrated in television. The world of advertising in Germany is concentrated in the print media – magazines and newspapers – because there is very limited time available for commercials on TV, and because Germans have a strong print orientation. In the United States the marketplace is immense – a continent, in fact. In Germany the marketplace is small, intimate, and fiercely competitive. Methods that have proven to work in a massive market seldom work in a small one. Americans who ignore this fact or are taken in by superficial, surface similarities may make very expensive mistakes. In recent years, two well-known American firms lost an estimated four to five million dollars because their management did not adopt strategies appropriate to the German market.

Communication is much more than stimulus and response. It is a system of releasing information or a programmed response. Although people imagine that language is the main channel of communication, 90% of the information, in fact, is carried by other communication systems –in the things that people own, how they perceive and structure time and space, and in many other kinds of behavior. Projecting a positive first impression with knowing the appropriate handshake, eye contact all are subtle forms of communicating through the unspoken word to your client. That first impression is a lasting impression and projecting polish and style is critical for establishing any kind of success with that client.

Culture is first, last and always a system of communication. Everything people do, produce and possess has meaning. Like the spoken language, the meaning is unique for each culture. Each culture has its own unconscious – those areas of which people are usually unaware. Many of the most important things to know about any culture are invisible.

Cultural Perspective – Germany

Germans like analysis and are highly organized. They tend to guard their information and not share with others even within a different department within the organization. Facts are paramount and all feelings and emotions have no place at the negotiating table.
Decision making is slow and tedious; however, once it is made it is unchangeable.

They are a very discipline society where there is a need for personal and social order. There is very little show of emotion because of strong internal structures and control.
Germany is a highly hierarchical society with classes established to fill organizational roles and give structure to order.

Business Practices

  • Be on time for every appointment! Nowhere in the world is punctuality more important than in Germany. Arriving just two or three minutes late can be insulting to a German executive.
  • Appointments should be made well in advance – at least one to two weeks notice.
  • Business letters are formal and businesslike. Forms of address: to the firm and not to an individual; “Dear ladies and gentlemen: ”
  • Keep in mind that they usually take four weeks vacation per year – usually in July.
  • The preferred times for business appointments are between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm or between 3:00 and 5:00 pm.
  • The German’s take pride in producing a quality product and therefore may take a lot of time in planning the production. Do not think you can speed up the production as they believe that it takes time to produce a product properly.
  • They also take a lot of time to develop a trusting business relationship. At first one would think they were somewhat aloof and cold but this character trait changes over time and often they can be fun-loving and gregarious.
  • They enjoy changing business cards
  • Education is highly respected and any title above the bachelor’s level should be included on your business card
  • They are serious and do not appreciate humor in a business context
  • Germans tend to stand further apart than Americans when talking. Do not move your chair closer to the speaker as this would be rude.
  • Avoid asking personal questions
  • Sports are a good topic of conversation
  • Breakfast meetings are unheard of in Germany. The business lunch is accepted. not discuss business during the meal. You may briefly discuss before the meal and certainly after the meal.
  • Shake hands firmly
  • Never keep your left hand in your pocket while shaking with your right
  • Proper forms of introductions critical – do not introduce people improperly
  • Business dress in Germany is very conservative. The dark suit, sedate ties and white shirts are the norm. Women also dress equally conservative in dark suits and white blouses.
  • Follow the lead of your German colleague with regard to removing your jacket or tie in hot weather; do not be surprised if he or she remains fully dressed in sweltering heat.
  • German businessmen do not give or expect to receive expensive gifts. A gift should be of good quality but not too costly.
  • Gift suggestions: good quality pens, pocket calculators or imported liquor.
  • The only article of clothing that is accepted would be a scarf. Perfume, soap or any other type of clothing is considered too personal.
  • When invited to a German home for dinner always bring flowers. Heather should never be included as it is usually planted on graves and deemed bad luck if brought into a home.
  • A good wine should be brought from your own country rather than trying to bring in a German line from a local grocery.

We hope you have enjoyed this issue and next month the focus is France where we will unlock those hidden differences that could make or break a successful deal.