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January 11, 2011

R. D. Lewis: Got Grϋndlichkeit?

Two Englishmen, meeting on the street may say "Hello"’ and exchange brief words on the weather.

Two Germans are likely to ask "Alles in Ordnung?" (Is everything in order?). Ordnung is not just a word, but a world view. Follow the rules, be organised, do the expected.

Some important German rules. But don't get nervous. At his Cross-Culture, Richard D. Lewis, a well-known British linguist and international business consultant, writes that German business people are very different than you and me, Ernest, in "The Cultural Commandments: Germany". There are ten. Our two favorites:

1. Be thorough...and then check everything again. Lewis: "Grϋndlichkeit (thoroughness) is a core German virtue. You should show a mastery of facts, figures, and every last detail."

3. Don’t make it sound too simple. "Life isn’t simple, is it? So why pretend otherwise? To German ears, simple messages are not complete..."

Lewis, who has made cross-cultural communication in commerce his life's work, offers a summary. Germans as traders are (a) honest, expecting others to be honest, (b) straightforward, and (c) blunt, "disagreeing openly rather than going for diplomacy".

Any questions?


Posted by Holden Oliver (Kitzbühel Desk) at January 11, 2011 11:59 PM


Reminds me of the old joke: In heaven, the English are the police, the French are the cooks, the Swiss are the administrators, the Italians are the lovers, and the Germans are the engineers. In hell, the English are the cooks, the French are the administrators, the Swiss are the lovers, the Italians are the engineers, and the Germans are the police.

Posted by: Ray Ward at January 10, 2011 09:17 PM

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