In your experience, is there anything unique about the office environment in Germany? Do people interact differently compared to other countries, for example?
Wolf: What my international colleagues told me is that they find the German working environment very formal. I experienced the opposite when I worked abroad. It was much more informal there compared to what I was used to in Germany. In Germany, you usually use last names when speaking to each other. And of course, in the German language there are formal and informal forms of “you.” You use the formal one until the point when you agree to use the informal one. But that’s changing a bit. It depends on the industry. For example, if you go into more IT-related or creative areas, people use the informal form right from the start.
What about the use of academic titles?
Wolf: If you have a doctorate in anything, it becomes a regularly used part of your name in Germany. That’s an expression of respect and politeness. But to foreigners it sometimes sounds like you’re a medical doctor.
Is it common for Germans to socialize with their fellow employees outside of the workplace?
Wolf: In traditional industries, it’s not very common to do something in your free time with your colleagues. We usually don’t have a Friday afternoon beer in Germany. But this is changing and it is definitely different when you work with younger people. They merge private and professional life much more.
Germans are well known for their directness. How does this influence communication in the workplace?
Wolf: For Germans, it’s very important to make things clear. There is probably a fine line between what you might perceive as rude, but what to a German is just direct. A German might say, “This is a fact and I really need to make it clear,” whereas you might say, “I don’t need to know this fact right now – I think I understand without it.” On the other hand, Germans are very reliable. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. You can count on that.