1. They destroy my idea by questioning the details
The difference in working style most often mentioned is the ambiguity the Germans feel towards uncertainty. On a scale of 0 (most comfortable with uncertainty) to 10 (least comfortable with uncertainty), Germany probably ranks about a nine in its need for certainty. So we want planned and structured schedules, attention to detail, team consensus, rules, and deadlines. We believe that time is money, that precise and direct is better than polite words that may level the degree of importance, and that expert knowledge is worth more than general knowledge.
2. Your boss treats you like you don’t know your job
A German superior will often give you very precise and detailed instructions as to how, when and with which results he/she wants you to do, and you may feel this is too much intervention. Obviously, whether it is or is not depends on the situation, but it helps to understand that this is a very normal way of managing and does not need to be patronizing. On the other hand, after having given the initial instruction, your boss will likely expect you not to come back unless you have thoroughly completed the task and will not intervene in the meantime.
3. Your colleagues don’t like you
No – you are not an unlikeable person. If your colleagues don’t invite you to spent time with you after work, that is nothing personal. Nothing. If they don’t invite you to join them for lunch, it’s a different story though. Germans tend to very strictly separate their private life from their work life. If you find one good friend in your work environment that is already extraordinary.
4. My colleague / boss / client is not trusting me
You may get this impression because Germans tend to put everything in writing. Written contracts are very important. You will even be confronted with things you wrote, or your counterpart wrote months ago if there is a difference about it. Your counterpart will likely store everything into labeled containers. Not because he distrusts you personally but because he/she is just doing what he/she does with every work contact.
5. My colleagues all ate a broom for breakfast
Germans in offices are very formal. Dress code is “proper” at all levels. Mostly suits on managerial levels, but you should adapt to your level’s habits. And yes. We are very formal. It is thrilling to enjoy what you do for work, but it is not considered fun. Fun is the time after work. So you may think it’s just your company where people are so boringly efficient, but your fun friend who you meet for dinner and party is probably just as formal as your most formal colleague.
6. My boss does not appreciate my work
An appraisal is only seldom given. Germans are expected to perform their tasks professionally and correctly. Why should positive feedback be necessary? The level of your ability to motivate yourself is part of your adequacy for your job.
7. They are so impolite
Germans, even on the same level, would tell you “I need this done by Monday” instead of asking “Would you be prepared to do this until Monday?” or “I appreciate if you could handle this by Monday because …”. This way of communicating is typical for all communications in a business environment. Even if you are in a supermarket and ask for a sausage it’s “I want 100 grams of this sausage” instead of “would you mind cutting me a piece of that sausage here, please?”. Even the famous “Bitte” is not always used. This is probably the biggest cultural difference to Anglo-American culture. However, it is again part of Germany’s thinking: you are paid for what you do so there is no need to use more words than necessary (and it is not expected), better be quick. Similarly, you will often not see a smile on a Sales Assistant face – I mean, she is not paid for smiling, right. You will always recognize the difference in communication in an area that is not business.
8. Service Desert Germany
The missing smile mentioned above is one reason why so many people believe Germany is a service desert. Another reason is the economic thinking. If you want service, you need to be prepared to pay for it. Hence, if you book a personal assistant, trainer, a relocation consultant, you will receive excellent service for what has been agreed. You cannot necessarily expect superb service from somebody you are not paying directly, like the waiter in a restaurant (even though you may give him a nice tip if he goes the extra mile for your third fork which landed on the floor). He has a job description and fulfilling this job description earns him the money, he is expecting 5-10% tip for doing his job as part of his remuneration, but not for overdoing it.
9. They can’t do team working
You have created a team consisting of multi-level, multi-gender and multi-age team members and expect that everybody contributes to each subject. Your job as moderator is going to be tough! Teamwork in Germany could probably be best described as a group of individuals working to a specific leader towards a defined goal. Each team member has a set role which is defined by his/her job and which is adhered to. And since it is expected that people are experts in their job it is seen as disrespect to intervene into their line of expertise. Further, team members are not able to decide if they do not own that power through their job and that leads to re-visiting of matters after superiors have been involved.
10. I am right and you are wrong and I am getting my lawyer at you
It is unbelievable over what small matters people start a legal fight, or threaten to do so. This is prone to Germans’ strong believe in regulations. Regulations are there to avoid conflicts, and they make us deal with each other in a civilized way rather than throwing stones at each other. There is a rule for basically everything, and it is wise to adhere to them in an environment which you cannot easily escape, i.e., in your apartment. Even, if there is no personal connection to a “crime” committed (i.e., false parking, or take a turn without setting the blinker) people may call the police for principle keeping purposes. So avoid doing a BBQ on your balcony unless you have sought for your neighbors’ approval in person and before the event takes place. They will usually be very generous – but if you don’t, you’ll have the housekeeper on the phone latest on the next day.