typically german; – Anja Spohr, Belinda Villbrandt und Gastautoren

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Artikel der Kategorie October, 2011

Immersion into a new job

October 30, 2011 Von: Theda Eilers Kategorie: Working in Germany 2 Kommentare →

Helpful information

Of course especially the first days in your new work environment are very exciting. Maybe you have already gained access to a lot of information upfront. This can be done by reading company brochures, annual reports and doing general research via the Internet. If you are already a company’s employee you might have ransacked the intranet and the company’s phone books. If you are lucky you may already know one of your new colleagues.

Training plan available?

Ideally your new employer has already prepared everything for your immersion.  Maybe there is a kind of a roadmap for you to get started. This controls the details of your “new hire training” from getting your identification badge up to defining your roles and responsibilities. Maybe they have even named a so-called buddy who guides and allows you an easy entry and helps you to start your new network. Whether with or without a recognizable training plan, you yourself can actively contribute to a good start!

A good first impression supports a smooth start

Arriving half an hour late on your first working day, having no excuse, forgetting important documents, wearing the non ironed shirt with stains or complaining loudly and gesticulating wildly about the bad hotel… There is no second chance to make a first impression! So if you ruined your first impression only once, it’s hard to re-into perspective. In addition to suitable clothing and punctuality also an unobtrusive appearance, a friendly expression and a positively-interested attitude are part of the first contact. And this is regardless of whether you meet the new boss, new colleagues, the HR department or the doorman. A friendly, appreciative interaction contributes to a good working atmosphere!

Approaching openly to others

Regardless whether man or woman, whether born in Greece or in Afghanistan, whether believing into Christianity or Buddhism…  I Germany we do a lot for treating each other with respect and tolerance. You do not have to be good friends with anyone – not even in your company. With the “General Equal Treatment Act” it was once again drawn deeper into the companies to not gang up against individuals or minorities, or to discriminate them against.  The job is about a spirit of mutual cooperation and joint solving tasks. Mutual acceptance and a sense of team, which can do a lot for each individual, are of great importance for this purpose.

First: address uncertainty, then act purposefully

What exactly are  my responsibilities? Which subjects do I have to discuss with the head of department? How should I behave in special cases?

Each new person is excused for not being familiar with all topics yet. Therefore it should be clear in the beginning, who is the first contact if you have any questions. Especially in the beginning, those issues that lead to uncertainty need to be clarified consequently and actively. Questions should be formulated and asked clearly, until the response has been understood.  Short notes are helpful for mobilizing the memory later. Colleagues usually understand that there are many questions in the beginning. But when they have to start to repeat themselves, their understanding will be dwindling.

In Germany we often talk about the so called first 100 days in the new job. The goal should be to be fairly firm in the new tasks in this period.


Germany and its public holidays

October 25, 2011 Von: Belinda Villbrandt Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →


Pleasure and pain go hand in hand

Germany has a large number of public holidays, on which the majority of the population does not work and students do not have to go to school. The holidays are on the one hand regulated by the state, and on  the other hand regulated by the 16 states, the so-called „Bundesländer“. Talking to a person from northern Germany you often hear that he or she is clearly underpriviledged compared to the folks in Southern Germany. In fact, the Bundesländer in the far North of the Country, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Bremen and Lower Saxony have less binding holidays then the rest of the Republic. Thus the theme of the holiday schemes is a recurring debate in public. The employer’s associations criticize the variance of public holidays inside Germany. But the workers on the other side moan if a day off falls on a weekend day, where they normally would not have to work anyway. Compared to other countries, be it Europe or the rest of the world, in Germany moving holidays, which fall on a Saturday or Sunday, will not be caught up the Monday after. If this is the case: that’s bad luck!


Tradition and modern trends

Coming from a country where the number of annual holiday normally is about two or three weeks on average, you may be wondering about the extent of public holidays in Germany. This is part of the traditions of the country which was shaped by the Christian faith and also by the intense political debates in the past.  Previously holidays were dominated by faith and rituals, but today family and leisure determine more often what people do on these days. Often so-called “Brückentage” (Brücke = bridge; Tage= days) are established into the planned vacations over the year. Using a “Brückentag” may provide the opportunity to extend a “normal” weekend to four free days in row.

Germany and its public holidays

Regulated by federal Uniform

(1.1.) New Year’s Day, Good Friday (Easter Sunday – 2 days), Easter Monday (Easter Sunday + 1 day), May Day (1.5.), Ascension Day (Easter Sunday + 39 days), Whit Monday (Easter Sunday + 50 days), German Unification Day (3.10.), 1st Christmas Day (25.12.), 2nd Christmas Day (26.12.)

Regional variations

Epiphany (6.1.) Corpus Christi (Easter Sunday + 60 days), Assumption (15.8.) Reformation Day (31.10.), All Saints (1.11.) Repentance Day

Details at http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feiertage_in_Deutschland

Why Germany?

October 18, 2011 Von: Anja Spohr Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

Great! I am looking outside, the sun is shining, the grass is green. I am surrounded by nice colleagues, who are open and honest with me….. I am covered by a social security system. From the place where I live it is only a short distance to nice mountain areas and the Ocean. What else can I wish for?

Nevertheless I read in the newspapers again and again, that qualified Managers and Professionals from abroad are not very much in favor for Germany as the country of residence. Germany obviously is not the place to be if it comes to the decision where to start or to continue a professional careers. I am confused… Although I have to admit I am not objective. So I try to list very fact based those things, which make Germany attractive as a country to live and work.

As already mentioned, there exists a decent social security system in Germany. If you fall sick, you get payed by your employer for 6 weeks. After this time you will get approx. 70% of your normal monthly salary, payed by your health insurance. Lost your job, have been employed for the past 12 months and citizen of the EU: for max. 24 months you will get payed 60% of your latest monthly salary, payed by the unemployment insurance.

German labor law is very employee-friendly. After the general probation period of 6 months, your contract can only be terminated with real good reasons (i.e. business results related).

Each and every employee is eligible for at least 24 vacation days per calendar year. Many companies even guarantee more than 24 days per year. Salary is continued to be payed even if you are on vacation.

Germany is a leading country i.e. in many areas of Technology. Engineers who are interested to work for the Automotive, the Chemical or the Engineering Industry in general may not find a better place to be.

So far so good. Now we have a look to the REALLY important things in life. Nuri Sahin, a professional soccer player with Turkish roots, who used to play for Borussia Dortmund (Germany Soccer Champion 2011) and now went to Real Madrid, just answered to the question, what he would miss most about Germany: “…. many typically German things: wide roads, everything is neat and tidy and of course the people.”

Wide roads! I may be right that he for sure also meant the nice (German) cars which you can drive without speed limits on the German Autobahn. Where else do you have such level of freedom?

High level of freedom is normally not what comes into your mind first when you think about Germany, right? In Germany there are lots of rules and the strict structure is always visible. We are used to this and it helps us to orientate. Maybe because of that we think we are reliable and dutiful. Commitments and promises of course will be kept.

There was a very nice quote from Angela Merkel, German chancellor, a couple of weeks ago, trying to capture „immigration of international professionals“: „We have to be attractive as a country as well. It is clear, that this has not always been the case in the past and that the world is not waiting to join us and work and live in Germany. We have to be inviting, too.“ I think, in short term there will be clear rules and structures how to achieve this. Maybe we should invent another 8-pages form with a 10 pages “how-to-fill-in-this-form-form”………

But seriously: Germany reliability and adherence to agreements makes it quite easy to cooperate with the Germans. Additionally, Germans are quite open and frank. Feedback will be given a little more direct than you may be used to. If we think, something is wrong with what you said, we will tell you in a quite articulate way. We tend to say what we mean and mean what we say. This saves a lot of time!

And time is needed for some other very important things, such as German „Gemütlichkeit“. Which is of course a synonym for the well known folk festivals, i.e. the „Oktoberfest“. But this one has developed into the very contrary. So what is „gemütlich“? One possible English translation sounds like „atmosphere of comfort, peace and acceptance“. If you have a look into the “Duden”, THE German dictionary, you will find numerous other synonyms like Behaglichkeit (comfort), Heimeligkeit (haimish), Traulichkeit (coziness), Lauschigkeit (snug). To experience the real “Gemütlichkeit” you need fine food and a good German beer, but most important: most enjoyable with some really good friends from all over the world.

Is it a cultural thing or are they just rude?

October 06, 2011 Von: t.davis Kategorie: Living in Germany Noch keine Kommentare →

This article is for a very specific audience. It’s for the ex-pat who only recently arrived to Germany, but has been here long enough to have had several interactions with Germans and therefore the opportunity to ask himself/herself “Is it a cultural thing or are these people just rude?” The answer is….well, it’s complicated. Let’s face it; even in your country of origin, some people just don’t know how to behave. But I’m not talking about those kind of people. I’m talking about your well-brought-up polite German, yes I used the word polite. It may feel rude to you, but, as a matter of fact, it is a cultural thing. Cultural understanding is a must if you are striving for more than mere survival in this German community you are now becoming a part of. Therefore, let me give you a tip about German communication. First of all, Germans think Americans exaggerate in their politeness. They even think that American politeness is a little dishonest or superficial. (FYI, most Europeans think this about Americans) and the upright German prefers “honesty”. Even though this word would be replaced in English with the word “tactless”, the German truly believes honest directness is the best way to go. So statements like:

“Thanks for the wine, but we really don’t drink wine, so you can keep it if you want”


“Thanks for the book, but we already have it!”

are completely acceptable and said with a smile. If they were to thank you for the book/wine and say how much they appreciate the gift, it would be LYING! Why would they lie to someone they liked?! Yes, the operative word here is “LIKED”. You are going to have to trust me on this one. But the real question is: how to respond? Well, I’m an American and have been living in Germany off and on for over 20 years. I’m still trying to figure that out, but my best advice is, be direct back. Growing up in a culture where “directness” and “rudeness” are almost synonymous, this takes some getting used to. I would suggest saying something like:

“Well, maybe you know someone who likes red wine! Give it to them und mach ihnen eine Freude!” (make them happy)

This message will most likely be gladly received! No one has to fake anything and all is well. The next time a German is being brutally honest to you, remember there could be another explanation.  And, this comes with a perk. There is no hidden communication where one is trying to understand code. It can be quite refreshing to know you will always get it straight. You never have to wonder what he/she was really trying to say. My prediction is, it will grow on you and before you know it, you just might start being a little more tactless yourself.