“A workplace can be enjoyed or suffered depending on your attitude towards it!”
My first place of work, the first step into the professional world, the first taste of how an organization works in professional terms. Now just to be clear, this post is solely based on what I have experienced in a German office since last September. This does not reflect the state of offices spread across Germany.
Since the time I am here, and whenever I meet my friends, we discuss work and so on, what I realized is that many of them were surprised to know some things (even after having experience back at their home country). Thus, giving me an idea for this post.
On a more interesting note, here are 12 things you should know or at least be aware of when you are planning to work or already working in a German office.
1. Always greet – Well sounds normal, but the catch is, you may think that you have wished that person in the morning on your way to coffee, or might have crossed each other more than a couple of times, but no. You have to say ‘Hallo‘ or ‘Mahlzeit‘ (will come to this in following points) or at least nod with a smile when you see them.
2. Schedule appointments – No matter its a discussion about your work or proposal for a new idea or trying to have “the” talk about your future prospects at that company or just a feedback meeting, schedule an appointment. This is not just made based on your timetable, but also make sure to check their calendar and then schedule one.
3. Stereotype less – Not to stereotype, but this is the most cases that I am talking about. DO NOT expect the same level of energy, interest, talk, replies right from the start. Germans, for a very good reason, need some time to open up to you. Of course, discussing work doesn’t include in this, but most of the time for casual coffee-time talks, it takes some time. So be patient and stop expecting loads in the first weeks at work. My experience was absolutely wonderful when it came to this – I was lucky to have such amazing people whom I worked with, that it didn’t even take me a week to feel like “This is the place for me”! Therefore, not trying to stereotype here.
4.Weather talks – More than we realize, the weather is a very interesting topic to begin a conversation with any German. I have tried this not only at work but also a bus stop, train station, or just anywhere. All you need to do is say something like – ‘Mann, so heiß!!’ or ‘Wetter is schön oder?’ or ‘Sonn is aus!’. (Ignore the grammar or words, but you get my point right?).Try any of these.
5.Breakfast anticipation – Again, I am only referring to what I saw here at my office. Well, some people say it out loud and some keep it within, but everyone anticipates breakfast mail around 9:00 every day. Well, be it someone is celebrating their birthday/anniversary/kid’s birthday/work anniversary/last working day/ or sometimes just because… – these are some of the reasons, someone or other provides/treats with awesome breakfast. It generally includes pretzel, butter, meatloaf, bread, cake, croissant, or any typical item from the German breakfast list and it is indeed awesome!
6.Mahlzeit! – This is a word that German course may fail to teach you. Its literal translation is ‘Blessed mealtime’. And it’s not just something you use before you eat, but greet with it too. When team members begin to walk out from their rooms and head towards to wonderful canteen, they greet other colleagues with ‘Mahlzeit’ and the way to respond to it is by saying ‘Mahlzeit’. (I had to be specific with this since I didn’t know how to respond first few days.)
7.Work means work – Unlike what I have heard of other workplaces, in Germany “work time is work time”. Talk all you want in the kitchen or while having coffee – but when you work, it is the only productive work time that goes into your timestamp. And this is done genuinely by Germans (again, I mean most of them). Although working hours are comparatively lesser to other countries, they have proven to be more productive – now we know why.
8.Direct communication – This is indeed one of the valued keys at work. Consider during a meeting, you being the youngest of the team, have some good (or great) ideas and your boss along with his boss is sitting right there. Well, simply wait until they ask if anyone has any opinions and you can talk right out. Politely discussing that someone’s idea has some flaws and providing a solution to that – go right ahead and talk it out (Politely of course). And it will be discussed very seriously. Not only does it make you feel like a part of the team, but motivates you to work harder.
9.Social media sites, a big NO – It is normal to see in German offices where websites like Facebook/Twitter/any other site similar is blocked. Sometimes even sites like eBay or similar are blocked too. Why you think – read point 7 (Makes sense now?)
10.Stammtisch – These are some informal group meetings that are generally organized right after office hours. Every week/fortnight basis, the group meets for a glass of beer or some games or just coffee or some good food at a nice restaurant. Sit and discuss something from work or just casual things like sports (or what so ever) and have a fun-filled evening with your work family.
11.Weekend plans – Friday and Monday, without discussions of/about the weekends are just incomplete. In most cases, discussing what you plan for the weekend on Friday’s is “the” topic during coffee/tea breaks. Sometimes it can also begin on Thursdays. And when your back on Monday, you discuss what all could you actually do. Most of the times, they are two different things (thanks to the German weather), so all in all, you have topics ready to discuss for these 2 days.
12.Work-Life balance – This is for me (and for most of you) by far the most important things you look for while joining an organization. When I discuss my work-week and plans after that with any of my friends who are working outside Germany, this is something that strikes the most difference. It is of utmost importance to Germans to have their work and personal life absolutely planned for. With the fixed number of working hours, and sunsetting by almost 21:30 during summers, it’s like having another half-day to ourselves after work. My most favorite thing on this list and thank you Germany for that.