Germany is located in the continent of Europe bordered by ten other countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and Poland) (Zimmermann, 2018, p.2). All bordering countries have held an influence on Germany. The population of Germany is comprised of slightly over 80 million people. According to the World Factbook, Germany’s population consists of 91.5 percent German, 2.4 percent Turkish, and the additional 6.1 percent stems from those of Greek, Russian, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian and Spanish ancestry (Zimmerman, 2018, p.2). Overall, Germany has an extremely established economy (Nael, Nagenborg ; Reijers, 2015, p.4)
In order for an individual to have a better understanding of the German culture, one must fully understand the history of their culture and the people of this country. This paper will discuss the following:
1. The major elements and dimensions of culture in Germany to include, communication, religion, ethics, values and attitudes, manners, customs, social structures and organizations, and education.
2. How communication, religion, ethics, values and attitudes, manners, customs, social structures and organizations, and education are integrated by locals conducting business in Germany.
3. How both of the above items compare with United States culture and business, and
4. The implications for the United States businesses that wish to conduct business in Germany.
Research Question 1: What are the major elements and dimensions of culture in Germany?
Communication is defined as being “the exchange of information between a sender and a receiver, and the inference (perception) of meaning between the individuals involved” (Kinicki ; Fugate, 2018, p.337). Effective communication is crucial in regard to an individual obtaining both personal and business objectives. Understanding how people in Germany communicate both verbally and non-verbally is essential in order to successfully conduct business in this country. Business relationships can be lost if individuals fail to understand the general communication patterns within the German culture. Gestures and communication styles vary between cultures. It is imperative that an individual learn what gestures are offensive in the country they are conducting busy to guarantee offense is not taken due to a communication barrier.
Over 95 percent of the German culture speaks German as their first language (Zimmerman, 2018, p.2). There are a variety of other languages spoken within the country, which include, Serbian, North and West Frisian, Danish, Romani, Turkish and Kurdish (Zimmerman, 2018, p.2). Although German is the primary language within the country, a vast majority of individuals speak English. Verbal communication within this country are “quite direct and functionally proposed” (Cultural Atlas, 2018, p.1). Germans tend to speak with honesty which takes away from the small talk. Due to this, Germans have a habit of taking the words of others’ literally. Honesty within this culture can sometimes send a negative condonation to foreigners because it is interrupted as brutality or bluntness. People of this culture speak candidly about things that they value. Humor can be send within this culture, but most jokes are taken factually which results in the listener “missing sarcasm in the speaker’s tone” (Cultural Atlas, 2018, p.1).
Communication between others within the German culture are primary verbal because they want to get straight to the point, however; some forms of verbal communication do exist within this culture. Eye contact is expected because it gives a sense of confidence and honesty. Generally speaking, when talking Germans usually keep about an arms distance between them and sometimes greater if a male and female are conversing. Physical contact is kept to a minimum during communication due to certain gestures being seen as a sexual advance (Cultural Atlas, 2018, p.2). Pointing is accepted in the German culture. Certain hand gestures, like saying “okay” with making a circle with your thumb and index finger can be misinterpreted. Germans are very direct and may appear to be serious to strangers, but once they get to know you know they generally become very friendly, exhibiting tons of smiles.
The remaining population are either atheist or practice another religion other than Christianity or Mulsim. The German constitution exhibits a relationship between state and religion. There is no discrimination in this culture in regard to religion, however; “the constitutional rules determine the relationship of the state and the diverse religious communities” (Korioth & Augsberg, 2007, p.320-321). 65 to 70 percent of Germany’s population identifies themselves as Christians, 29 percent Catholic (Zimmerman, 2015, p.3). Two churches are recognized within the German culture, the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. There are very few Muslims within this culture. Religious communities are forbidden from intervening in state affairs.
Ethics uses reasoning and morals to determine what should or should not be done (Phaneuf, 2009, p.2). Religion and culture are major dynamics when discussing the formation of ethical beliefs. Changes were made to the ethical practices in Germany due to the reformation of East and West Germany. During the reformation, the political system in this culture changed to capitalist system from a socialist system (Meyer, 1993, p.5). The change within the political system generated a non-tolerance for unethical behavior.
Ethics in Germany are led by moral decision due to the people of the country being close-knit. Generally speaking, Germans want to be accepted by their community. These individuals hold ethics to a high standard while heavily relying on the thoughts of others within their community. Ethical decisions inside this county are based on how an individual feels those closest to them will feel about it. Germans “will check the opinions of significant others, such as friends, spouses and coworkers, before making ethical decisions rather than relying on their own personal moral compass” (Rausch, Lindquist, & Steckel, 2014, p.192 ).
Values and Attitudes
History. Since the late 1950s, changes in values and attitudes have been studied in Germanic countries (Kopper, 1993, p. 168). The German culture has seen a substantial change in regards to how traditional values are viewed. The perception of old-fashioned values in regards to rules and order, duty, and the hierarchical thinking has changed drastically since the 1950s. History shows that Germans possess a number of values and attitudes, to include but are not limited to the following characteristics:
• Quality (perfectionism)
• Social order and rules
• And seriousness” (Kopper, 1993, p. 171)
Overall. Germans accept those born of German descent. An individual has to be born in Germany to German parents to be considered citizens of Germany. This culture consists primarily of hard workers who aim for perfection. Germans have a hard time giving compliments to others and can be perceived as unfriendly by people who are not familiar with their culture. Structure, privacy, and punctuality are ranked high in regards to what this culture values. Germans value relationships and marriage.
General Manners. In the German culture manners are very important. Friends greet each other with a handshake. Close friends and family greet one another with a hug and a kiss on each cheek. Eye contact is very important in the German culture as it shows that a person is attentive and direct. When greeting each other, unless family members, family names are used instead of an individual’s first name. Titles are extremely important because they show respect. Germans use the question “how are you?” in a literal sense, when an individual is asked this question they are expected to answer with an answer that exceeds “fine” or “okay”. It is perceived as being rude if one asks the question “how ae you?” and moves on without receiving a reply. When having a conversation with others you should never put your hands in your pocket or point your index finger. This is perceived as being rude and inattentive. Germans respect people in authority.
Eating Mannes. It is imperative that one keeps their hands in sight when eating amongst others in this culture. During a toast, it is significant that you keep eye contact with other parties involved in the toast. If you are invited to eat at someone’s house in Germany, you should arrive on time as this is associated with proper planning (which is big in this culture) (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, 2016, p.1). During dinner you should insure that your phone is off or placed on silent. You should remained standing until you are asked to be seated. “Germans do not generally serve other people. Plates of food are passed around the table” (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main, 2016, p.3).
Germany is filled with traditions and customs. Germans are relativity private individuals. There is a division within their public and private life. Germans are known for how well they plan. Security is provided by planning within the German culture. It is custom that Germans upkeep their homes. Due to communication being rather formal outside of the home, this is one place where an individual can be themselves. Often times, only family and close friends will be invited into another’s home. In some parts of Germany, typically East, one may be expected to take off their shoes before entering into a home.
If you are invited to a German’s home, it is custom that you bring some sort of gift. This gift can be flowers, a bottle of wine, or fine chocolate. Parts of Germany take pride in their wine production so it is important you give fine wine if that is your gift of choice. Tea roses and yellow rose are well accepted in Germany as red roses symbolize romance. One should never give toiletries, clothing or perfume as a gift because it appears personal. Gifts are usually opened by the receiver while the giver is still in their presence.
Time is valued in the German culture. You should always arrive on time, Germans do not accept lateness. If a student is late, they are punished. It is also a custom that you pay for your own food if you are invited out to eat.
Social Structures and Organizations
Social Hierarchy. Like many other countries, Germany has a social structure that consists of three classes: upper, middle, and lower. The main determination of what class and individual belongs to is their prosperity. The more money a person has the higher class they are categorized in. The upper class is composed of scholars, administrators, royal families and other wealthy people. This class is the richest and most dominant in the social hierarchy. The middle class falls in between both the upper class and lower class (German Social Hierarchy, 2018, p.1). “The middle class was normally the mainly contested of all of the three cataloging in the German social hierarchy” (German Social Hierarchy, 2018, p.1). The middle class has some powers and influence in the German society. The lower class is composed of the working and under class. The lower class typically works under the management of the middle class.
Organizational Structure. Seven types of markets make up the industrial labor process. They are listed and explained as follows:
1. Traditional primary industries- Labor is recruited from the children of the owners. This is mostly unindustrialized work.
2. Small competitive industries-