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Working in: Germany

Feb 21, 2020

Germany is high on the wish list for young space professionals. And with good reason! Germany boasts some of the most prestigious industrial space companies of Europe like Airbus, OHB and Thales Alenia. Plenty of opportunities to expand your career in the field of space. But what is Germany like? And the Germans? How will you fit in with your new colleagues? Well, that’s where I come in, with this short guide for surviving in the German work environment. Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as I’m making it sound.

Let’s start with the general power structure. While hierarchy is not unimportant in German worklife, the power distance is still relatively low, globally speaking. Disagree with your boss? Chances are you can knock on his door and constructively offer your take. Remember, constructively, I will not be held accountable for any injuries (mental or physical) caused by you telling your boss He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

But what about business etiquette you ask. Don’t worry, I was just getting to that. A big reason why Germany and the Germans are so efficient is because of their punctuality. If you have a meeting at 9:15 it means that you have a meeting at 9:15, not at 9:20, not at 9:16, but at 9:15. Keep this in mind, especially in your first weeks. Once you’ve established your importance, you should still be on time, but you will probably be able to get away with the occasional slip up.
In meetings, Germans like to talk business. Perhaps you’re used to talking about the weather and the concert you attended in the weekend at the start of the Monday morning meeting, but Germans generally prefer to cut the idle banter and get straight to business. This is not the same for every company of course and if you can somehow find out your new boss is a football fan, a great way of bonding with him is during a nice discussion about the offside goal that his favourite team scored.

On to language, unlike their smaller neighbours to the east, Germans greatly appreciate you trying to master their language. While most of the younger generation can communicate in English quite well, you can see their eyes light up when you walk in to the office, phone with Duolingo in hand and awkwardly say Guten Morgen. So if you want to get a head start with the integration process, pick up a few lines here and there and practise them in the mirror, like Robert de Niro in Taxi driver.
Lastly, Germans are polite and friendly, but also like their physical distance. When you greet your co-workers you give them a handshake and polite nod. Overly dramatic or physical greetings (like a hug) are generally a no-go and may leave them confused.

Let’s talk about something more cheerful. The Germans have a lot of holidays. Depending on where in Germany you work you can have up to over twenty public Holidays a year. Not all of these might appeal to you, but I’m sure a few of them will. Most notably, Christmas. Even if you travel home during the holidays, make sure to visit a traditional German Christmas market, trust me, you will not be disappointed. Well, unless you don’t like happy people drinking delicious gluhwein and eating giant Frankfurter sausages of course, but who doesn’t like all of these things?!

There’s more to know about the Germans of course. They work hard, are known for their efficiency love football and have great social security, but that’s more than I can fit in to a blog without exceeding the attention span of the average website reader. Still left with burning questions? You can find my details and give me a call. Don’t expect me to have all the answers though, but between myself and the rest of our recruitment team, we will make sure that your transition to Germany will be smooth.