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Lessons in The German World of Work Philosophy

By Joseph, published on 24/08/2017 Blog > Languages > German > Learning the German Mentality at Work

Germany is an anatomical oddity: it writes with its left hand and acts with its right.” – Kurt Tucholsky

Is Germany an occupational utopia for Brits? It definitely seems to be for those that live in Germany. In addition to low unemployment, according to a study in 2015, of those in work, 78% of them are “happy at work” in their home country.

Of course they are! 73.1% of them earn over €31,000 gross/year and the national average is €20,670/year.

However, working in Germany isn’t as easy as it might seem. While the UK is still in the EU, Brits don’t currently need a residence permit, work permit, or visas to go to Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, or Munich in Bavaria. You can currently go wherever you want in Deutschland!

If you’ve got a job offer and are moving to Germany, you might think your biggest hurdles are going to be the language, German culture, dealing with the German embassy or German government, or getting health insurance but you’d be wrong.

Almost every foreigner currently living abroad in Germany, even those with advanced language skills, will mention the culture shock they were met with when it came to the German mentality regarding work. It can be difficult to integrate into the heart of a German company and anyone wanting to work or study in Germany needs to prepare themselves for the Germany philosophy when it comes to their job (and learn German Phrases, too).

Here’s everything you need to know about the German work mentality. .

German Discipline: Fact or Fiction?

The idea of the disciplined German is one of the oldest clichés in the book.

From overseas, Germany is seen as a country where the people are far more disciplined, ordered, strict, and unwavering than other EU countries. Why is this image so lasting?

How do I get a job in Germany? Germans aren’t as strict as stereotypes would have you believe. (Source: pixabay.com)

For one, Germany broadcasts this image of themselves because the workers in German companies are so competitive and effective. German businesses look for diligence and consistency when it comes to their workers, making Germany 4th in terms of global economic powers and the most powerful in the European Economic Area (EEA). This also means it can be easy to find a job.

In an interview on the French show 20 minutes, Katja, a French-German living in Paris explained:

We only cross the road when the light is green and in business we respect contracts scrupulously.”

Has Germany always been the “good student” in a class? This isn’t always the case.

Even though plenty of countries think that Germans seem to sometimes be too disciplined, they also like to promote externalising feelings.

This is true in their schools, as Katja explained:

[School in Germany] promotes personal expression and debate. We don’t learn things off by heart.”

It’s this mix of diligence and assertiveness that helps the Germans be so effective in their work! If you’re considering working abroad and want to see it for yourself, why not start by learning German in in a university or German school in Berlin or learn German online?

The Different Work Cultures between Germany and the UK

What are the advantages of working and living in Germany?

We tend to think that finding a job and working in the Federal Republic of Germany won’t be so different to working in the UK since we live in an increasingly globalised world. However, it’s not true.

The cultural differences at work can end up being a roadblock when it comes to recruitment in Germany and integrating into a German workplace. In fact, studies by the Goethe Institut have shown that a large number of businesses think the differing mentalities can be a source of tension at work.

Are Germans punctual? You can’t be like the White Rabbit. You can’t be late. (Source: rawpixel.com)

In order to avoid this, don’t be duped by the illusion. Here are a few key differences between the two countries:

  • In the UK, your professional life tends to dominate your personal life ≠ In Germany, your private life is essential. Working at home is even encouraged.

  • In the UK, we prefer originality ≠ In Germany, they prefer utility and profitability.

  • In the UK, we prefer creative employees ≠ In Germany, they prefer employees who focus on the quality of the work they’ve been asked to do.

  • In the UK, we aim for a company that works well ≠ In Germany, they aim for a company that works perfectly.

  • In the UK, we encourage movement ≠ In Germany, they encourage consistency and continuity.

  • In the UK, companies love to rise to new challenges ≠ In Germany, companies like to play it safe.

Work in Germany is monochronic, too. This means that they like to complete tasks sequentially and put a focus on timeliness and avoiding delays. Germans like to be on time at all times.

German workers are also more aware of the big decisions being taken by their company. It’s the famous notion of “Wir-Gefühl” where Germans are part of the whole and are therefore involved with their company.

Before setting off on a German adventure, you need to be aware of all these differences. This means that you can start integrating into the German work ethos from the moment you sit down at your interview!

If you’re thinking about studying in Germany, you should check out the 5 best student cities in Germany!

Experience or Qualifications?

When it comes to qualifications, the UK puts far too much importance on them. We believe that our futures are made for us the second we pick up our degree certificates. We seem to believe that our entire careers are decided between the ages of 18 and 21.

While it can seem weird for somebody in the UK to go back to their studies, it’s very easy to do so in Germany. Germans can improve their work skills at any moment through theoretical and practical courses.

Where can I get a job in Germany? Speaking German is a must if you want to work in Germany. (Source: pixabay.com)

These courses give them a “plus” on their CVs without being the decisive factor when it comes to hiring them.

Being a good student in Germany isn’t enough. The candidate has to prove themselves in the professional world.

German businesses prefer:

  • Speaking German and bilingualism

  • Proactive candidates

  • The practical elements of qualifications

  • Work experience (internships, etc.)

  • Professional skills

  • References.

  • Digital skills

  • Experience “on the ground”…

In Germany “Die Elitehochschulen” or “Eliteuniversität” aren’t as important. Further education is seen important when it brings something to the workplace rather than being just an accolade. German businesses also consider older candidates. As of 2020, 40% of the German population will be seniors.

By launching the “Perspective 50+” initiatives, German companies are looking towards hiring older employees and placing greater value on their experience and knowledge rather than their training.

German philosophy is different to ours in that it doesn’t place as much focus on your academic background. Experience is more important and candidates without degrees are given a chance.

Working in Germany: Don’t Let Things Drag On

Time is money” – Benjamin Franklin

The “Zeit ist Geld” is particularly important in Germany where workers are expected to be quick and effective. You can’t procrastinate here!

The German mentality is based on profitability: German workers look for well-paid positions which you can only get if you are diligent and dedicated.

What is working in Germany like? In Germany, employees need to trust one another. (Source: Marc Mueller)

German businesses won’t give a penny to idle workers. It’s a relationship built on trust between the employer and the employee. It’s the same between colleagues.

German workers need to rely on one another in order to perfectly work together to optimise the company’s output. Every expat applicant or job seeker in Germany needs to keep this in mind.

After an interview with Superprof, Stephanie from Ravensburg, who’s been working in France for 4 years, had this to say about the work ethic:

One of the biggest differences between France and Germany is in the world of work. Since I’ve been working in France, I’ve noticed one thing. In Germany, when we say “I’ll take care of that”, we do it. Most of the time we do it immediately. For Germans, these words come with an expectation to be counted on. In France (just like the UK), sometimes these words mean nothing. People have told me they’d take care of something and they didn’t.”

If you want to last in the German job market, you have to rigorously make use of your time and complete every job on time. The same goes if you’re on an internship or an international student in a German university. If you’re studying or working in Germany, you’ve got to do as the Germans do.

With our advice, are you ready to set foot on German soil?

If you’re not sure about Germany, remember that if you’ve mastered the German language, you can also consider other German speaking countries like Austria and Switzerland, although the latter isn’t a member of the European Union.

You can also check out the best German universities

Are you interested in learning to speak German? Find German lessons throughout the UK and German lessons London.


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