This type of attitude is considered rude
Are we Germans rude?
First of all, it should be noted that of course not all Chinese, German or English are created equal
But there are behavior patterns that have developed in individual cultures over the centuries and millennia. To follow the historical development of national idiosyncrasies is very exciting.
This article is about finding out why we Germans abroad are sometimes referred to as too direct, sometimes even as impolite - without us feeling that way ourselves. This can be seen in very specific typical situations, which are shown below. There are also a few tips on how we can break up our established behavior patterns a little.
Example of German and Chinese culture
In interviews with German and Chinese managers, assessments of the following kind repeatedly come up: The Chinese are "incapable of conflict", "their statements are too vague and unclear", they are "dishonest", "they lack openness", they "tend to be to gloss over "they could not admit mistakes". Germans, on the other hand, are "impatient", "uncontrolled", "brisk and impolite", they are "rigid and inflexible", they "do not understand the Chinese concept of face", they "do not know the way Chinese conversations are conducted", are "too little considerate "or prone to" immodesty ".
Such cultural contrasts can lead to real conflicts. Also the Body language reveals a lot about the cultural background: If, according to the Western perception, prolonged, intensive eye contact is regarded as completely normal, it can appear threatening, aggressive and rude to a Chinese.
Example of German and British culture
Like the Germans, the British are also oriented towards consensus and compromise. "Common sense" is used as a guide. Technical competence, facts and logic are decisive for the result.
However, the ways that lead to a result differ considerably within the two nations. If the Germans are more interested in quick results, the British need time to weigh up the pros and cons of individual joint actions or final deals.
So bring you time with when you go to a UK meeting. You will rarely hear a clear "no" from a British person. He's more likely to tell you an anecdote or give you nebulous answers like: "That might be a little difficult!".
The British have been in close contact with many different nationalities for centuries. As a colonial power, they had to familiarize themselves with Indian conditions as well as cope with African or Asian customs. Anyone who has already had contact with oriental cultures knows that a direct "no" or too clear negative behavior is perceived as absolutely impolite. So the British use their humor in order to avoid concrete behavior.
How do you deal with this behavior now as a German? The most important thing is the attitude with which you go into negotiations with the British: Even if you are pressed for time, you shouldn't let it show on you.
Tip: Try to react with similar behavior. Respond to a level-headed British: "Let's wait and see." with an equally level-headed German: "All right, until when shall we wait and what do we see then?". You will not get an answer, just an appreciative smile that you have understood the British negotiating tactics. You are as good as certain of this cooperation.
Perhaps you will come up with some anecdotes for yourself that you will tell when the occasion arises. That creates closeness and trust. Remain just as "cool" and accommodating in negotiations, but no less tenacious, than your British counterpart. You will see that you are getting results that are satisfactory for both of you and enable long-term business relationships.
Example of German and Spanish culture
Very important to know: food is important for Spaniards. Use lunch or dinner invitations to intensify the business relationship and talk about neutral topics. It is considered impolite to only talk about business matters.
Example of German and American cultures
Perhaps you have had similar experiences yourself as in one of the following critical situations:
In a meeting with her American chemists, Ms. Schmidt presented her idea of how they could work together to develop a new paint for S-Bahn trains that repels graffiti spray. This requires tests in both the German and American laboratories. At her next meeting she will bring the test results of her team in Germany, but no results are available from the American side.
Mr. Johann has prepared well for his presentation to his American donors. After introducing the high quality and the development of the product and having discussed the previous sales in detail, he leads on to the weaknesses of previous marketing strategies. While he is executing the need for a new marketing strategy, he notices that his listeners are getting restless, leafing through their documents and are no longer listening to him properly.
When Mister Jones returned from his business trip to Frankfurt, he told his American colleagues that he was amazed at how impolite some of the German business partners are.
In none of the cases described above do the desired results occur; the collaboration is not going as expected. What happened?
Direct meets indirect language
In German-American communication, the typical problem arises when a direct meets an indirect style of communication. The American conversational style is symmetrical, with less tolerance for pauses. You don't interrupt each other and you are less personally involved. Germans, on the other hand, are much more direct when expressing their opinion and criticism.
Hamburg Style of Management
In discussions and negotiations, German business partners should pay attention to the American “Hamburg Style of Management”: while Americans pack their criticism, the “meat”, in soft bread, the Germans only serve the meat.
US-Americans tend to so-called "padding", namely to wrap their statements in cotton wool and first confirm their counterparts positively.
It is quite possible that Ms. Schmidt was very pleased with the positive reaction that her idea was very good and that she did not take the meaning of the "but" that followed it so seriously. The Americans will, however, have introduced their objection in this article and have explained why they see the implementation of the experiments as problematic and therefore did not carry them out. After the positive confirmation, Ms. Schmidt will have assumed approval from her American colleagues at the beginning.
The art of small talk
At a meeting, Americans first try to establish a positive relationship with their business partners. That is why it is customary in the USA to have "small talk" at the beginning of an encounter. German colleagues, on the other hand, do not necessarily begin a greeting with the question of how someone is doing, and get to the point very quickly. This seems very rude to Americans.
The direct entry into the matter on the part of German colleagues is therefore often perceived as a strong rejection and represents an unfavorable start for a conversation with US Americans. Such communication rules are also closely related to a stronger need of US Americans for social recognition.
Typically German: tough on the matter
Since the position within the group is more stable in Germany due to clearer hierarchical structures, less emphasis is placed on harmony. By exchanging blows and discussing the matter, the aim is to maintain the position and to appear credible (“need to be credible”). If American managers are not used to German discussion behavior and the formalities, it can quickly happen that they feel attacked or frustrated and withdraw from the discussion.
It is often the small gestures and unconscious habits that irritate and are misunderstood. Use your cultural knowledge about your own culture and that of others. Try to understand why the other person acts differently than you are used to.
Lunch, the weather or the last World Cup as a starting point for a conversation can prepare the ground for more understanding and sympathy, but maybe also for a good contract that both sides are completely satisfied with.
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