Working with Germans
March 1, 2023
64 Min

Working with Germans with Steffen Henkel

"you have somebody who's quite efficient working, I mean, when I compare myself with other Germans, I tend to be not so organized and sufficient. But but when I work in an international team. Suddenly I'm the organized one."
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Steffen Henkel
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Working with Germans

What do Mercedes, BMW and Audi all have in common? First, they are considered solid cars, but second, they are all German.

Are this German quality and engineering prowess true to a German in the workplace?

In this episode about working with Germans, I spoke to the CEO of Crossculture Academy and native German, Steffen Henkel, about the work culture among Germans.

He gave me some precious insights about how the German workplace mentality brings forward the value of having someone from Germany on your team.

Show Notes

Steffen Henkel is an intercultural coach, facilitator and entrepreneur with strong expertise and experience working with companies worldwide, especially from the US. He is a native German and lives in Germany as we speak. He is the CEO of Crossculture Academy.

Their impressive client list includes companies such as Audi, Recaro Carl Zeiss, Robert Bosch, Accenture, GlaxoSmithKline and many more.

Steffens professional experience includes:

  • Project Manager at the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations, responsible for the intercultural management and training programme
  • Management of a global pool of trainers, including the development of a tool for high-quality trainer selection
  • Founder and Managing Partner of compass international gmbh. relocation, training, consulting (2002 – 2009)
  • Founder and Managing Partner of change.project gmbh; Development of the intercultural online portal www.crossculture-academy.com
  • COO of Globiana, Inc. and Global Mobility Online Platform to support international assignees and their family members
  • Researcher at the Bavarian Research Cooperation FORAREA on "Risks and opportunities of intercultural business collaborations of German SMEs in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia"
  • Long-standing board member of the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research SIETAR Germany e. V.
  • Lecturer at various universities, e. g. Heilbronn University of applied sciences and the European Business School, Wiesbaden, Germany
  • Research visits and study tours in the Middle East and Southeast Asia
  • In 2005, member of the Round Table of Stiftung Warentest Test for intercultural training providers, Berlin, Germany

If you want to connect with Steffen and read more about his work and company, please look him up on LinkedIn or visit his website crossculture-academy.com


Connect with Steffen Henkel


Cross-Culture Academy

Email: steffen.henkel@crossculture-academy.com

Key Episode Insights
German Work Culture and Mindset

🌍 Understanding the German mindset in the workplace is crucial for anyone working with Germans or trying to navigate their culture.
🌍 Germany's central location in Europe has allowed it to have a rich cultural history influenced by neighboring countries.
😊 In German business culture, there is a clear division between private and professional life, with a focus on being serious and task-oriented in the workplace.
🤝 Germans are known for being very helpful and going above and beyond to assist others, even more than expected.
🌍 Germans are known for their efficiency and organization in the workplace, even when compared to other Germans.
💬 Germans are known for their direct feedback, even if it's not what you want to hear.
🚗 The stereotype of Germans being organized and having a structured mindset is true, evident in Germany's history of technological advancements and reliability in the automotive industry.
🤔 Germans have a tendency to stick to rules and follow a structured way of doing things, which sets them apart from many other European countries.

Cultural Nuances and Differences in Business Interactions

🌍 Cultural differences within a country, such as the north and south of Italy, can impact behavior and work ethics, highlighting the importance of understanding cultural nuances in business interactions.
🍻 Germans consider their best friends to be those they have deep conversations with about work, relationships, and more, meeting up three or four times a month.
🏛️ Understanding the historical context of Germany helps explain the importance placed on knowing and following rules in German business etiquette.
🌍 The impact of immigration on culture is super interesting, as different cultures shape and influence the way of living and working in a country.
🤝 Learning about different ways of communication and hierarchy can help navigate unfamiliar cultural environments: "There's task orientation, there's relationship orientation, there's different ways of dealing with hierarchy, there's different ways of finding a common ground and so on."

Importance of Understanding and Adapting to Cultural Differences

📰 "The younger generation has a totally different mindset when it comes to work-life balance."
🌟 "Weekends are highly valued in Germany, as they are seen as a time for personal life and relaxation, not work."
🌍 Understanding and anticipating human reactions and behaviors is more complex than computer thinking, as humans operate in gray areas and can figure things out effectively.
🌍 It's important to be open-minded and adaptable when working with foreign companies, as cultural conflicts can occur if both parties are unwilling to understand and respect each other's ways of doing things.

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Paul Arnesen
Paul Arnesen
Host, Working With Us Podcast

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Full Transcript

Paul Arnesen: Hello and welcome to working with us, Podcast. Today we are going to explore Germany how it is to work with German, work in Germany and with me I have a German and intercultural expert, trainer. You heard the introduction, Stephen Henkel. Hi! How are you today?

Steffen Henkel: I'm fine. Hi, Paul! Nice to see you today. And I'm very excited being on your podcast.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, how's your day been? I have a question. You can answer this inside of the “how your das been”. Culturally, everybody, not even culturally, in general, when you work, you go for lunch. So how was your typical German lunch today?

Steffen Henkel: I don't know whether this is typical German. My lunch was actually something quite small, as I try to lose a little bit of weight, so i'm on a sort of a diet right now, which is kind of organized, and I squeeze it, squeezed it in between 2 appointments, and just headed on my desk, which is, I would say, not very German. Usually we we like going for, like going outside or having lunch somewhere in a canteen or in a restaurant. And this is what I do when I have people coming at like yesterday. A trainer of my company came, and we went to a restaurant which was Italian, which is a very German thing, I guess, to go to.

Paul Arnesen: Well, I live in Italy so so I could tell you all about the Italian lunch culture which is definitely going out to an Italian restaurant. But it it's kind of a fascinating thing when you work in a different culture, that the way you sort of take your lunch breaks right, and how you perceive it the the way you would. I'm, just as the context is to give you, I'm Norwegian. So our lunch for those who know, is we bring it from home. It's just a small launch packet that is like it consist of 3 slices of bread, and then we eat at our at our desk in like 15 min. It's a little bit different in Germany. Right? 

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, they it then it was very similar to your to your and usual Norwegian lunch. I guess what most people are doing when they're working in some of the bigger companies. They have a place where within the company where they can go, and then it's usually something like you meet up with colleagues that is like a game with whom i'm going to have lunch today, and it's about networking and get to more, get to know more people in the company, and so on. So I used to work in a bank just for for an internship, a very brief time, and that was really like a it was like gambling. With whom am I going? And all this today with this guy? And next time with this colleague, and so on. So this is what I guess most people are doing as i'm in a small company, just a Self run company. I guess this eating lunch in your desk is quite common.

Paul Arnesen: And is it the also because the same is in the in other cultures that lunch is is an important part of the socializing at the workplace. To get to know people and sort of, you know, interact to people. Is it more what happens at work than what happens after work when it comes to this thing? If you, understand my question.

Steffen Henkel: Actually, for Germans, we are very formal when it has to be when it's something important, or something that we want to know, or something that is work related, and we need information from somebody. Then we really tend to not put this into a meeting outside a meeting room.  We have this formal meetings, “Besprechungen” as we call it, in German, and these are the the times where we share information. Sometimes it's hard for us when we and other cultures, and they share information outside outside of an official meeting to really be serious about the information we get in these informal, having a coffee break together, or lunch, or and so on. So this is quite a typical thing that we we. We tend to divide very strict between a private setting or a non-official setting and a formal meeting situation, and we tend to be more serious about the the formal, and we take the information that is coming in there more seriously than outside 

Paul Arnesen: and lunch a business is an informal setting. Okay. Well, I want to just give the listeners and the viewers a little bit of a, I want to put Germany on the map. I mean. if you don't know where Germany is, or you never heard about Germany. I mean it's it's kind of a country that has has put his mark on on the world in. for generations. They have a rich history, and just to place it on the map for you that don't know. It's in the Central of Europe. It's basically located smack in the middle of Europe. It borders to Denmark in the north, on the west you have Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, France. South. It's, Switzerland, Austria, and then you have Czechia and Poland on the east I think that's all of it. So you can sort of see that Germany has had this all these influences from all these countries in sort of the long history of, even from the Roman days, you know a sort of a rich, rich cultural history. And I took some notes here. I just want to see if I can get it up here. So obviously not that. I'm actually kind of familiar with Germany as in Norway we actually learn quite a lot about Germany as an elective, forced elective at school, so we had a German or French that we have to learn for like for 3, 4 years. So I should remember this. But you know, with many years ago since I went to school. So let's see here. So Germany has actually more than 83 million people, which actually makes it the second most populated country in Europe. If you consider Russia, which is also in Europe, which is larger capital is Berlin. The other big noticeable cities are Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Colon or Köln, as it's called in German, to mention, just a few. It's a great power house as well. It is actually the largest economy in Europe.But probably best known for or not probably, they are best known for their quality automotive industry withwell known brands such as Mercedes Bmw, Volkswagen, to mention some. And it sort of caught my attention when I did this sort of background now, that Germany, with all those influences from around Germany, you have, like the French side, which is very distinct on one end, and then they have sort of the Eastern European Polish side on the on the other end. And I sort of came up with this question, thinking that inside of a culture this usually cultural differences that maybe foreign companies or foreigners wouldn't really understand, unless you sort of live inside of the country, because When you read a textbook about German culture you can read a general sense in your eyes. Being German. Is there anything that you can say about this is the people that live close to the French border different than the people that live close to the Polish border, and than Denmark in the north and Switzerland in the South? Or is it something that is, It's equal everywhere.

Steffen Henkel: It's definitely not equal. It's a very interesting question, because, of course, within Germany. We we kind of constantly refer to these differences we have within Germany, between the different regions that you just mentioned, and we tend to stereotype about that, and make fun about the each other, like Bavaria, for example, in the South. But southeast is all always a little bit different than the rest of Germany. It always have this little tendency of see itself not being totally integrated into into the country. This is actually already quite a long time that the variance feel like that. It used to be the the second most powerful state when there was still an empire or kingdom, and so on. So that was that is coming from that time, and it still is like that. And then we have these more, for example, just to be on the more on the culture side. The the southern part of Germany, Germany, tend to be a little bit more relationship oriented, a little bit more easy going, if you can say this regarding Germans, I mean easy going. It's not the what I would describe Germans, but within Germany the southern part is more easy going than the northern part. It's more task oriented there we have, i'm. From the southern part i'm from Bavaria, and now living in the Southwest, Baden-Württemberg, and when I'm visiting clients in Northern Germany it's always a little bit colder there, the way people interact with each other it's a little bit colder, and then Berlin, where people tend to be a little bit harsh. But you don't have to take it too serious. It's just seriously. It's just the way they are speaking. It sounds sometimes a little bit unfriendly, but it's just the way it is. People talk to each other. And now we're generalizing, of course. Yeah, this has. This goes through all the whole podcasts that we only generalizing here and then we have, like the Rhine Valley. Which where you, where we have this big carnival going on, and so on. So maybe people know about this where people tend to be much more extroverted, outgoing, talking to strangers quite easily in a somewhere when they in a in a bar or something. So there are differences within Germany, and we we tend to make fun of that as well with each other.

Paul Arnesen: But it's interesting because it's obviously kind of like the the map of Europe is so of cultural like. The people in the North are known to be a little bit colder, you know Denmark and and or in Sweden and the south of Italy is more warmer and more relationship based. So sort of Germany being in the middle, is sort of split in that sense right? And then, maybe, as you said, the Carnival, like the it's in Köln, right or yeah, like that area which is the same carnival type they have in in Spain and Portugal, and like this kind of you know, the warmer atmosphere. So it's it's actually very interesting. Do you think that or should like a a company that maybe are are looking to hire? Germans have this in the back of their mind? Or is it general sense that there is like one type of sort of managing the German in a workplace. If that there is anything like that.

Steffen Henkel: Hmm. That's a interesting question. I think it's too much generalizing to look for somebody hiring all we want to have somebody that is very so to say. Now let's take somebody from Hamburg. I think that's that's too much putting into these. Let's say stereotypes that are there within the country, and I guess it's the same in other countries as well. People. We have these regions in Spain or in France, and people talk about that, and they kind of make a fuss about it, but not hiring somebody, because he's from this or that part of Germany. That would be very superficial, I guess, and too putting too much into that. 

Paul Arnesen: And I think that the thinking for me also is that I just came from another podcast that did about Italy, where definitely, the south of it is kind of very different, and then most of Italy in terms of like the people are very, you know, different. Then it's sort of. If you hire a team of, say, I don't know from the south of Italy as salespeople. They will actually behave a little bit differently than the people, the sales people from the north of Italy. Just because of Culturally, they have this sort of, the way they view time for example. You know these things. It's it's actually very different. But I think that, because it relates back, it goes over to my next question here, which is that if you could try to sort of describe the typical German in your eyes, what would you say? They are like? What do you say?  From a a cultural, work, Cultural point of view? What's the typical German? 

Steffen Henkel: That's that's actually a very difficult question because of the the the fact that it's very much generalizing.

Paul Arnesen: No, just for like it, for someone who, for someone who doesn't know the culture, what would they? Because when they read a a textbook about the German. They will read some things, but if you could explain it to them, what they maybe, could expect in in working with German in terms of their work, ethics, and behavior, and all that. 

Steffen Henkel: I guess some features that, for example, that we divide quite strictly between private life and professional life that we tend to not to share too much about our private life with the colleagues, and so on, at least not in the beginning, and usually our friends or the people we spend our free time or spare time with are coming from before working somewhere might be from from university or even school, and these are all like like the best friends. I had a friend who was in from Singapore, and he said. What people you call friends. This is so strange for me. I'm from Singapore, and we tend to spend as much time together as possible. And you have these people You call the best, your best friends, and you meet up like 3 or 4 times a month, and then you, sitting there with your beer and having a heavy conversation something about your how you like or not, like your boss, and maybe your relationship, and so on. And this is what you call your best friend. So this is. This is something that we really share. I mean, there's a picture that is sometimes used for Germans like a coconut. It's very hard to go inside. But once you're inside, there's that you get everything. And this is how we treat like our best friends that we trust. They know almost No, they know everything about us. So that, and bringing this into the workplace is very unusual, so might be a little bit different for younger generations, or for start-ups, for example. But when you come to a more traditional company, then then you can really see that that we that we divide between private life and professional life. Yeah, and in in professional life we I guess we tend to be quite serious and not so much laughter and not so not joking around a lot, but being very much focused on the task that is going all the tasks that we have in our table. Of course, that is as we said, that's general speaking. Of course people have fun on work and so on, but maybe in comparison to other cultures we tend to be quite focused on the tasks that are that are there right now.

Paul Arnesen: Are there any common misconceptions about the Germans, or something frustrating that you heard, or hear often. That is actually not true.

Steffen Henkel: That's actually not true. I mean being, not having humour. Is that the right way to put it? That's something that Germans hear quite often, or that we are confronted with quite often. It's not that somebody is telling us right into the into the face, but it's like a stereotype about Germans, and I guess this is this is where this comes from. Many people see us from in the work related situation, and there we tend to be a little bit more serious than in the in private life. So this is a misconception that I think most people have in the world. I mean that changed - I remember before and after the the Soccer World Championship, when it happened in Germany, and suddenly Germans became more open, and started to talk to people on the street where they people from outside, coming here to to watch some, some soccer game, and that this kind of changed the way people see Germans there. There is something as a German when i'm in Italy or in Spain, and people see me, staying somewhere, and I don't know where to go. There's somebody approaching me and asking, do you need help? And this is quite seldomly done in Germany. It's like we see somebody having a map open and and trying to find his or her way, and then we tend to, I think i'm disturbing him when I, when I go, approach him and ask him where to go. So we tend to leave him alone. Which is regarded as a little bit unfriendly, and I can totally understand that. But it's very often it's not because we want to be unfriendly, or we don't want to help it's because we think we disturb them, and we enter the private sphere, and maybe they want to figure that out by themselves. So they know better the next time. So this is all going on in the head when we see something like that. And in in the world championship it was a little bit different because people started approaching foreigners, and go there and ask, where can we help you? And so on. And that changed a little bit the perspective but what some people say when they, when they actually ask Germans for help, then we we tend to be very helpful, and even take some effort that is much more than people expect from us to do. Like taking you and bringing you where you want to go. If you want to find your way somewhere, and not just telling you where to go. So this is something that that is described quite often when I talk.

Paul Arnesen: If I can take this aspect of you, because this is actually very similar to my culture. So we tend to - we actually call it with freedom comes responsibility. So we sort of give every it's your time. So you take care of yourself, and I take care of myself, you know, at least in a in a personal, private life. But is this something that also can happen in the workplace. If you can imagine a team of non-germans, have, say, a German manager, and if they're stuck at something and maybe they are sort of, you know, implying that they need some assistance. Would the German manager Typically, just tell them with their eyes you you figure this out yourself or would they actually get involved in in a project?

Steffen Henkel: I guess I mean implying it's always something that we have difficulties to understand. If you say it, then we understand it. We have a quite direct way of communicating. So that means sometimes this directness sounds can sound a little bit harsh. But on the other way around, we have sometimes difficulties to understand if somebody tries to imply something because we're just listening, we're waiting for somebody telling us what to do, what is the question, and so on. So what is the story, What's going on, and not having to figure that out by what the the the words that are between the lines. So if somebody, I guess people would first not react. But the moment somebody is asking for help, then most of course most people would help. So this is exactly, and we it's the same way. Even in school, we were told, When you have a, if you have a question, then ask it's not my job as your teacher, to figure out whether you understand something or not, or you understood something or not. It's your job as a pupil to ask if you didn't understand something. So this is like going on for the rest of the life. It's your it's your responsibility to ask me, and then I help you if you're not asking, how should I figure out that you have a question? This is like a little bit what I think in most setting this is going to happen.

Paul Arnesen: And that is also then something from people coming from a culture where they are used to having a sort of a very strong leader who take charge. Strongly in that sense that they take the sort of the they reigns of everything, and they want to sort of be micromanaging in some sense you don't really find micromanaging. You find micromanaging, I guess, in German culture as well. But maybe it's not that accepted because right, because someone who is actually just want to do their work. They want to sort of also be left alone to figure out things by themselves.

Steffen Henkel: Correct, give me an objective or aim where I have to go, but please don`t tell me how to go there. This will. It looks like you think i'm stupid and not able to go there, and I come to you if I have questions that turns the other way around exactly the same as a boss. Our manager. I expect you to come to me when you, when you need my help, and not me coming to you and trying to figure out where are you in the process and what's going on? And then I give you more hints and what to do. It's your responsibilty coming to me, and then I have that's for sure. So this is a very common different way of managing people in other countries where where the same thing is in Germany regarded as interfering in something that is not your job at this moment, whereas in other countries that is seen as taking care of what's going on. And so this is the the some misunderstanding that is happening quite often.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and and just moving on there to sort of it. It goes perfectly fine into my next question about how do you? Then? If you are working and I. I work with a lot of clients that actually are hiring people in remote settings, you know. So they don't have that opportunity to actually meet them in person to see that. So they manage them, managing them basically then, via, you know, a laptop. And then that can be also for people working and living in Germany, but like how do you, then, what sort of a a good strategy to keep a German worker engaged and happy at them at the workplace. If anything, can it be related to this, or it can be related to anything else.

Steffen Henkel: What I think is important is to be structured, and to be quite clear of what you want and what you don't want being some sort in between, and unclear situation when it's becoming gray and not black or white. This might be something for Germans a little bit difficult, and we tend to like the structure that I mean that for hierarchy, for example, there's a difference between Scandinavian countries and Germany we tend to to really think this is so cool in Scandinavian countries, because there's no hierarchy going on there, and so on, and everything. Everything is like consens oriented, and so on. And, but what I learned from some of our clients that are working in in Denmark, for example, or in Sweden or Norway that they think it's very attractive to work there. But at some point they're trying to figure out. Okay, what's now the decision? Who is saying what to do. Now we have all this discussion going on, but at the end some person is expected to say, okay, this is what we do now and and as a German, we tend to wait for this person and this is what we do are going to do now, and if this is not happening we tend to be lost a little bit. Okay? And this is demotivating, of course. So I guess in a remote workplace we tend to be quite motivated just by the task, not so much by something that is coming from outside. The task itself is already something that we like to figure out but, and that can lead quite some time, being alone and working even remote. And there's no direct contact. But of course, maybe this is a very human thing that at some point we need to have interaction and need to what's going on, and what is the broader objective, and where to go, and so on. So by doing this giving structure and being very clear, this I guess this is a motivating and good thing for us to do.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and it it really ties into a lot of the new research coming out of effective remote teams as well is to have planning, structure, and if you want to sort of, because otherwise you just stuck in meetings all day, and it's really hard to chase people when they're on the other side of the world if you if you not have, if you haven't planned sort of the objectives ahead of time and the task already, and then you can sort of the work, or the person can just engage in that in their own time, and that will sort of be more motivating than just having to sit and wait for a meeting to get the instructions there every day.

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, it's a little bit like having this a meeting where we get to know what to do and where we can actually discuss stuff. It's not just listening to somebody telling our what to do. But we we like to discuss about this stuff and then getting a and then this is the direction we are going to from the boss, and then we need some time being alone and doing what we actually agreed on before. And then there's a meeting again with milestones, and this is a this will be the next steps, and then again, having some time alone where we can work on the stuff that we just agreed on. And I guess this mixture is something that helps a lot to keep Germans engaged.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, I think it's absolutely true. And I think it to to summarize that point is yes, structure and organization. You sort of it. It all up brings it back to what you said. The beginning up with a typical German, you know they like some sort of structure, and and to sort of be left to do their job the way they've been told, and not, you know. Come and tell me how to do the job. I will get it done. Trust me, and and I think that you know, for for people from from very opposite cultures that could be a challenge if they don't know about this.

Steffen Henkel: Yeah. And if they have the tendency to just pick up the phone or hey? I have a question regarding this. This can be regarded as a being disturbed. And what I what is actually my task to do right now. So we just talked about this. There was a meeting. So why you're calling me right now. Now is time to work on what we agreed on, and in the next meeting we can have the discussion again. But yeah, of course it's not just one time calling and people stop pick getting angry. It's just something. If this happened constantly, and I have the feeling, i'm interrupted in my tasks, we're not a multi tasking. I think most of us are not really into multitasking. Of course it's also a generational thing, I mean, you know, younger generation what they do at the same time, right now, like social media, and this and this and that. But in general speaking, I would say, we are less multitasking than other cultures.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. Well, that's a excellent excellent points here, and very helpful. I think It's a good it's a good way of presenting it in that way. I want to do a little pivot and and go to something that is, true for most people that I actually enter the workplace, and that's sort of the the outlook of, and I was thinking also, in in typical sense  the German, their their outlook on work, life, balance, career, say they go to school. They go to university. They start working. Is there anything that is in your experience like. Just to to give you an example, for example, in an in an Norwegian culture. To to put the context a little bit is like we tend to, you know we we study, we go straight to university. So we are finished there when we like 23. 24. Then you start working. This is very typical, and you work your way. Up. You sort of try to go to career ladder, and then you you retire when you're like 62 or something. And work, Life, balance, you know, is all about getting as much freedom as possible, but still doing the work. So a lot of outdoor activities, family is important everything outside of work. How how is it for for the typical German in that sense.

Steffen Henkel: Hmm. I guess. Work-life balance is a topic here like for a couple of years already, and as far as I know, that the for the even the younger generation now coming out of the University, it's even more important. Then, for my or older generations, that we think about that, and we try to structure our lives that we have a balance between work and life. For me. Personally, this question is a little bit difficult, because, being an entrepreneur, I don't really make a difference between private and professional. Of course I make a difference, but there's no work life balance. My work is not stopping when I have life, and my life is not stopping when i'm in work it's it's very. If you ask me for my hobby. It's my company, or one of my hobbies. So, But in general I would say it's something that is regarded as we want to have free time, and we want to organize our free time. There's a something that we we treat appointments, private appointments in the same way, like we treat professional appointments. It's a something in my outlook, calendar where it says, meeting with this friend, and having some beer, it's like very, very like. I would like we have a podcast together now it's on my outlook Calendar the same like I organize my private life in the same way, which seems to be different than other cultures, more free floating there. But when when you ask, is it a little bit more a free time, then, or more money. I guess there are still quite some people, some more people asking for more money, and even on risking, having less spare time. But this is maybe my generation and the younger is is that totally different? That's at least what I can. We read the newspapers

Paul Arnesen: If I take it like, if if I put it into an example, say that a company from the US. You know, they have a, maybe a culturally, they work is maybe okay you work 9 to 9 like 12 h work days. So they're gonna expand into Germany. They gonna hire a team from Germany. Can they expect them to sort of be -  How how should they expect sort of the German to shape like if they go set up a a workday for a German team. What would say a German say, oh, I need this because that's everything else. Or would they be adaptable to you know, following someone else's cultural work practices. 

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, do you have an example? What would be a different work practise? 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. Well, Italy - Italy is for some Italy, not many Italian companies do hire remote workers, at this moment, but I I general sense. Here they start to work at 9, and they end at 6, 7, and then it's sort of out for a, you know, maybe an apertivo, which it is called here like a with some friends, and then it's home. That's one example. And if you, as an Italian company, were to hire someone, maybe you will put that expectation as well. But maybe to say, like, okay, your work day doesn't end after 8 h, it ends when you're finished with working.

Steffen Henkel: I guess that's very interesting, because it also leads to some misperception when Germans are outside and living in a in a being like for an as an expat or on an on an international assignment. Sometimes they alone without the family, and so on. Then they tend to work quite a lot, because just they don't have their structure. They have no friends, at least in the beginning, and the beginning is quite some months usually, until you get new friends and so on. So that gives the perception of being quite busy and like to work a lot. What people from outside Germany say when they come to Germany, that they actually astonished how much Germans tend to - we have the 9 to 5 work time, and when it's 5 we just stop working. And I guess this is for most Germans true that that they we 5, It can be 5, 10. That's okay, or 5.30. But don't expect me to work much longer than that, and even not being reimbursed for that. Of course it also has to do with the when you're in the in a consultancy firm, or something, or lawyer, then it might look a little bit different, but in in other contexts it is expected to be there from 9 to 5 or 9 to 6, and that's that's it. Don't expect me to be there longer than than we have in our contract.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And then it's also true. I think, that in Germany you are, you are trying to protect the workers from, I don't know what you call it. But say, exploitative companies like to. I think that you have a rule about the you can sort of implement rules like no emails on the weekends. And I've heard these examples and stuff like that, right? So and I think just because if if a listener is from the outside Germany, looking into this, they have to be aware of these kind of things. That is sort of. Maybe it's not ingrained in the culture, but it's sort of part of you know, the dynamics in the culture, and then maybe a young German coming into the market who have these expectations.

Steffen Henkel: when you were in a in a - that's also something that dividing private life and and professional life, and to having this interfered to each other, and like on the weekend, acting like i'm working, or it's a little bit frowned upon, and it's not like. There are some jobs, of course, where this has to happen, and we tend to look with some - oh, I'm sorry that you have to work like this, and you have to work on on your weekend or something. So it's - we can - this is very important for us, for example. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, no, it should be. I mean it's, I think, in general sense it's you. You should have the everybody should have their freedom also. Life is not only work, at least you're an entrepreneur, like some of us are here, you know, like what? What is freedom, what is work, what is personal life, you know. So we organize the days a little bit differently. Okay, so let's, we have sort of put, I think, a pretty good sort of understanding of general sense you know the Germans and in the workplace and, say that someone comes now from. Maybe they talk to you about this, or they talk to me and say, okay, I would like to hire someone from Germany. Why should I do so? Why should I hire someone from Germany?

Steffen Henkel: I would say, you have somebody who's quite efficient working, I mean, when I compare myself with other Germans, I tend to be not so organized and sufficient. But but when I work in an international team. Suddenly I'm the organized one. So, of course, culture is always relative, and therefore this happens as well. So I guess you have somebody quite organized and and efficient somebody who is serious about the work that he or she is doing. It's not just fun. It's something that we take very seriously our job, and we define ourselves quite a lot about what we are doing for our living. Hmm. Of course we will be somebody quite good educated. So if if you hire an engineer, it will be a good engineer. That's what I think is something that that you can get from a German. The - you have somebody that gives you feedback quite direct. If you want to know something. What do you think about my next idea about this task, or about that, you will have somebody who is who's giving you feedback on that, even if you don't like it. Yeah, I guess these are some of the features you get when you when you to German.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and I think, I don`t remember the context, but there is a very funny meme, or drawing online, they say like, in heaven, the chef is Italian, the German is an engineer or something, you know, and then the opposite in hell. The chef is British, and i'm sorry I don't want to offend anyone. I don't want to say it, but you know it's. I think it's really true what you said, I think that's stereotype that sort of a that sort of the organized mindset and the structure like definitly for engineers. I think it's very true, and you can also see that in everything that sort of Germany has as brought along through history in terms of technology and all the automotive industry and the reliability in cars and stuff, you know. That's definitely a I think it's something that is ingrained in sort of the from your birth growing up, you have this mentality in a So I totally get what you're saying there. It's difficult to generalize, and this is sort of like, you know, you have to tell a good story about yourself, which is also difficult, like brag about yourself. It may be also difficult for German to just..

Steffen Henkel: You ask for your ask for the features. Of course there are some some stuff that might not. It's not fun, at least, I have to say, working with the Germans. You don't hire a German because you want to have a fun environment. So there are some things that are - can be seen as negative, of course, as well. And as you said, of course it's generalization what we're doing here right now. But I mean there is a a generalization, is - there is something that makes it true, and something that makes what makes that makes it not true, and you have to.. When we do intercultural training, we always, we give people a stereotype, and then we have to take it away right away again, because you're not working with the German. You're working with Steffen, and you have to figure out how the ways Steffen is doing stuff, of course, at the end. but still the stereotype about Germans can help you to understand some of the stuff he's doing, or even anticipate how he might react on something that you are doing. So that's one. But I, as we are not computers that I only can think in 0 or 1. We know that there's a there are gray areas and so on. I think we can figure this out quite, quite good.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and I think it's also an interesting point that I had. And another conversation is that - because that we are getting more and more globalized with technology. And we're sort of merging together, you know, different cultures and everything. So maybe these differences will, we're much more visible, like, say, 50 years ago, or like the a different generation where you haven't really seen the world in tried. Because, I know a lot of - I have a lot of German friends I've been studying and living abroad for many years, and they are one of the most sort of you know International people I know they speak good English. They have a good sense of a risk and sense in respect of other cultures, you know. They integrate Well, they do all of these things, and that sort of it's very easy to get friendly with them to make friends with them. So, but that's a generation. Maybe that was different, you know. Maybe, as you said, the World Cup when that happened to sort of the generation before, that might have been differently. So, if that makes any sense what i'm saying

Steffen Henkel: There is some conduct of behavior that is becoming more and more similar all around the globe. And of course, then, you have these different, like, let's say, a farmer in India might share some features with the farmer in Germany or in Norway more than a engineer in India. It's is sharing with a farmer in India, so that these layers are there as well. But what I think is that when you go deeper and not just to the surface. Then the cultural features remain very for a long time, and changing very slowly, and therefore I still think and even. But that's a strange thing that we have the tendency, when something from the outside is coming that we even go back a little bit more and emphasis more what we think is our identity. So, having our identity is questioned, leads to defending this identity a little bit more which which is actually then leading in the opposite direction than the common conduct worldwide. So that it is it I think it will remain. It will remain a topic for quite some while. I mean you. You ask in the beginning about other differences within Germany. So I guess they will always remain these a different and they make they are actually the salt and the salt and the soup. Do you say that in English? And that's what we say in German. So the the good thing about living together it makes it gives us it. It's some spice in in the whole thing. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And I think I do this often when I if I speak to companies that want to go globally with their company, and I say that the at least that the what the first thing you should do is to, do you know your own identity? Are you aware of how you behave in, you know, meetings and expectations and everything. And do you know where that is coming from? For example, I think that sometimes that is also super interesting to for them to understand, because that's sort of the that's what you are training I guess, also companies to do and there will be conflicts based on - that you don't see how you are reacting to a different culture just because that is easy to sort of defend your own identity and say the way i'm doing stuff is always been the best so why should that those do the same, even though those are completely raised in a different kind of society and environment.

Steffen Henkel: Right? Yeah, yeah.

Paul Arnesen: Okay. But anyways, I don't really have. I had one more thing, and I don't know if you have anything else you want to add before that sort of the last point I have anything here. Do you have any good stories in mind about maybe a a cultural conflict that that with some foreign company working with Germans or something that you have experience in your own life.

Steffen Henkel: Oh, that's a that's a good question. Of course we have from my from my job quite some some stories going on for. I have to think about something. I mean one thing that I want to share is is that I find very interesting. You said in the beginning, like Germany in between all the other European countries. And there is one scholar. She tried to find ways to explain some cultural features like, for example, this very structured way, and sticking very much to rules, is something that I guess Germans do a lot as well in comparison to many others that we that we tend to look for rules, and then we stick to the rules. And the question, Why is that this way and that? You know Germany? There was a time when Germany was totally divided into different little states, and it were like more than 3,000 states within the area that is now Germany. And that when you go to the market like just a a couple of kilometers away from where you live. It might be in a different territory, and there's a different. There are different rules. So you need to know the rules. You need to know the rule in your territory, and then you need to know the rule in the territory where you go to the market, and maybe you go somewhere else as well. And then there another set of rules like what? What kind of currency you're using, and so on, and so on. And this leads to Germans being so obeying to rules because they need it in some former times to know about the rules, otherwise you might have to go to prison because you just not taking care of a rule of another territory. And this is one of the explanations why, and I find these these explanations very interesting, and and sometimes now I can understand why. Same with the why we divide private and professional life that there was a time when this was absolutely necessary. Otherwise you, I mean. And it was a couple of 100 years in Germany. I go, let's say maybe 150 years from when when the absolutism was striking back, and and then the third reich, and so on. And then all these times it was very important to not tell everybody outside what is going on in your private life. It can be quite dangerous. So this is just some of the explanations, and I find them very interesting.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. And and and it would be if if i'm thinking about sort of the a generation. So people raised in in this kind of divide right? But after say that unification that's sort of like. Now Germany is one big, you know, unified country, it's the same, the same concept. An idea is actually true in Italy in many ways, where they will used to be up to the 1861 divided into different like kingdoms, and it still sort of sticks with a lot of, even language is a different, you know, around there. So I think that that's what we also mentioned. A little bit, you know. There's then, now a a new generation that comes up, and maybe they are raised in even - the parents generation is from it in this sort of when everything was sort of unified again.

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, and we we don't know where this is the next generation, and something like the pandemic situation. How this is changing a culture, and we can only see this, I guess in a couple of years and see how the - whether it changed something or not. And yeah, it's it's still an ongoing process. Of course it is. I mean, it was for the last couple of 100 years. So it will still be the same. 

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, yeah. And I think it's also we we didn't touch up on that. We could have this discussion in itself as a topic. You know, immigration changes stuff as well, you know, like a different cultures comes from the outside in they settle down and and sort of they shape the culture around them. And that's another generation that goes up with, You know there a way of living, and they were you working and ceiling and and thinking and being in the middle of Europe, you have like impacts from everywhere all the time, and and that's something. It's super interesting. And I think tthelearning you can take from all of this is that the culture as you said, is, it's always going to be ingrained in you because it's sort of you know. It has something to do with your identity, but it's also fluid generational thing. It will sort of change as we go forward. 

Steffen Henkel: Sorry if I can ask you a question. How was it for you being in Norwegian and living in Italy. Did you - Can you remember something where you said, oh, that's a cultural difference for me, and it's not so easy to adapt or something.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah. Well, I have many, because I actually I lived in Portugal before Italy. And then one of the things that is, I think you can also relate to this, because this is something I think we have very common in our culture is the organization of stuff and structure, and you know. Call it engineering of a problem like for the way you fix a problem in the culture i'm living in. Now, everything is fluid. It's sort of like, okay, you have a problem. I will look at it, and I will see if I can fix it, and if I can't fix it, I will see maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow. Instead of like - For example, we just recently we are doing a refurbishment project here, you know, I was a bit nervous going into this, because if you do something like this in Norway, buy a house, it's a very structured way of looking at. You need this kind of paperwork. You need this kind of thing you need. Everything is very structure. You have someone come in and look at the house. Look at the walls, make sure everything is fine. In Italy it was a little bit like, maybe maybe not. You know that someone will come. There are rules. They are somewhere in the system, but it's such a it's kind of like, an - it's organized disorganized. I don't know how to explain it works, but it doesn't work the way I my brain would want it to work. Sort of like. The things takes a little bit longer. It gets done in the end, and the way to get there it's just - that's sort of the thing that, at least. When I came to Portugal I was 2014, I had lived abroad before that, but in more like a Anglo Saxon cultures and all that. But you know I came there, and I remember I was at check out at the supermarket, and I had one item - by the time I came to the counter to pay, I basically had to stand behind the lady for 5 min listening to her conversation with the cashier. They didn't look at me. They both because that's you know, they had take their time. Time is looked at differently, funnily enough. Like some months later I went to Lidl, Portugal, completely different, because they are trained in the German way of efficiency. So there they basically like sort of through me through the counter. And I was like.

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, Great. Story. Thank you for sharing great. 

Paul Arnesen: No, no, I have. I have a lot of this experiences, obviously not in a work setting, but in personal settings.  It is the things that you sort of appreciate. Also, when you're liable, you see inside to your own culture, and you sort of see what is working and not working, and I appreciate more. What was the good parts of of it growing up and and living there, and maybe things that the people Is it something? I don't understand why they what they should complain about? But there's much more things to worry about. 

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, that's true. I mean it's expanding your it's so much outside the comfort zone in the beginning, but it's actually expanding your alternatives of doing stuff. And that's a wonderful thing to to learn.

Paul Arnesen: Hmm. And I think that that's we can sort of wrap it up on on that note, because the last question I would have to you that if you were to recommend someone to learn more about what - how it is to work with Germans to work in Germany, and if they not there at the moment, which is mostly the case with most of the people I work with. You know they are looking at either moving in there or hiring remotely, or something. Is there any tips you have for them or the resources you will guide them to.

Steffen Henkel: Yeah, of course, I mean I would always recommend doing a cross-cultural training, or at least some e-learning or trying to make this topic as something that you want to learn about it's. It's I mean not everybody has the chance to really do a cross-cultural training. But at least not regarding the the learning about the culture as a nice add-on that can be also left out. This will lead to a miserable time. I'm sure if you don't, if you're not open to all the our cultural differences, and it's not. Of course you can judge about them and say, I don't feel well with that. But it is important to see this as a cultural feature or cultural trade, or  some cultural background, and it makes no sense to fight against this all the time. It makes much more sense to learn about it, and try to integrate it, and and live with that, and find your way to deal with that. So, and to do so, you need to learn something about it even so that we, it's always a call. Different culture, working in a different cultural environment can be something like that is something different, but I cannot put my finger on it. What is going on? I don't feel totally integrated. What is going on here, and the moment you get the knowledge to reflect on that all this task orientation, there's reli relationship orientation. There's different ways of dealing with hierarchy. There's different ways of finding a common ground, and so on. And the moment you know these words you can start reflecting on them, and therefore I would everybody recommend to take care of that and learn something about that, of course, making friends wherever you go, trying to to make friends where you are, and it's not easy in German. Be patient with that. We, because the whole time - the whole day is so structured, and there are plans for for from. I don't know 8 in the morning until 9, 10 in the evening, whether you meet friends or whatever that we have, this quite, quite many people are in playing soccer or being in some sort of a club, or I don't know, finds this is how we call it, and and to bring somebody to make somebody like you so much that he or she is actually clearing his evening so that you can meet up is something that takes time. But when when you have this, then you have somebody, you can always ask what is going on here, especially, this is quite easy with Germans as we we tend to talk about stuff quite a lot, and not being too shy about asking something that in other cultures might be a a taboo or not being able to ask about. Because, may you, don't want to imply something. Germans tend to be quite frank about this kind of stuff. So getting to know people and taking the time and being patient enough. But then it can be quite some. Then you might have a friend for live. So this would be some of my recommendations.

Paul Arnesen: Yeah, and I I can say I have some, my really best friends, are Germans. I didn't meet them in Germany. I met them abroad, so maybe that's a different breed of people, but they are very easy going. When you get to know them. I must say when you get to know them when they really get your friends. They are like very reliable, always open for new fun and activities. If you're active. There's always sports symbols and travel. And yeah, so the it's a I I think it's just that there's a lot of communities around the world as well with with a lot of Germans like students. And and I think that if you really want to sort of. if you're in a if you're in a foreign country, and you really wanna and if your ambitions is to go there, maybe as an engineer, or whatever ambitions you have, you know you always. You can seek them out, probably anywhere in the world, in some sense, some community, if you get to know them a little bit, and just, you know, Have a chat with them. See how it goes. Well, thank you very much, Stefan. So if anyone wants to get in touch with you, do you? How do you recommend them to reach out to you?

Steffen Henkel: You can write me an email, do you? Do you have something like notes, and you know where where people can. 

Paul Arnesen: I will add the all the links and the emails. And you know, whatever you want me to share, we add in a show. Not so this episode that you find on the website. So if someone list is there any preferred platform, do you have the email Linkedin?

Steffen Henkel: So for me. It's 2. It's basically email, steffen.henkel@crosscultur-academy.com, or my linkedin profile, which is just Stefan Henkel. And then you will find me, and I'm. I'm really happy to get some to get some messages. Great

Paul Arnesen: perfect. Well, thank you very much, Steffen. It was a pleasure I mean it's a I always love to to listen to someone from a culture to speak about themselves. And you know for me it's it's all about listening to. Yeah generalizations. There is a typical thing, because, you know, in the end that's what we that's what we are. We are. We have an identity, and we should be able to share that with the world. And people can, as you said, or you, just for themselves when they there. But you know that I think it's. It's a very, very valuable for me. Sort of confirms a lot of things that that I know about about Germans, and hopefully the listeners, and and who else is sort of tuning into this can get some value out of this. And yeah, hope you still have a good day there.

Steffen Henkel: Thank you very much, Paul, and thank you for approaching me. I was. It's my pleasure to be on your podcast. Thanks.

Paul Arnesen: thank you, Steffen, and thank you all. If you want to know more, you can find everything on the website. It's working with us.co. You will find the show notes, details, some links, everything that we have discussed, even a transcript of the entire conversation. And yeah, hope to hear from you soon. Bye bye.