Working the English way – a comparison between the English and German workplace

This article is actually very interesting for me in particular as I study International Business Communications back home in Munich. At university we were encouraged to go into our internship abroad with a critical approach. So I am very pleased to be given the possibility to share my thoughts.

“Du” and “Sie”

The first thing I noticed, and of course already knew before having arrived in Brighton, is that the English don’t distinguish between “Du” and “Sie” as the Germans do. Here, there is only “you”. On the one hand I really like that, because it sets you on the same level no matter what qualification you have. It also helps you to build up a professional relationship with your colleagues a lot easier because it isn’t as difficult to address them. On the other hand it doesn’t really create the sometimes needed respect when having discussions with your colleague or even boss. In Germany, the rule is that the senior colleague has to offer the “Du” to the younger one. The younger one is given the “permission” to name the senior colleague by his first name. It usually doesn’t take a long time until you will be “per du” with the colleagues you mostly work with. However, to be allowed to call your boss by the first name is very unlikely unless you really earn his trust and know him for quite a long time.

In my opinion, this separation between “Du” and “Sie” contributes to the stereotype that Germans are very serious people. I have to admit that the more I think about it the more I actually agree with this stereotype when comparing Germans with the English. But, if you plan to spend a language holiday in Germany don’t worry, the Germans know how to laugh and have fun too!

Working Environment

I can only compare working for Cactus with working for a big American company selling technical machinery that has a subsidiary near Munich. But what I realised is that the atmosphere at Cactus is much more relaxed – despite the fact that there are about 25 people working in one busy room. Everyone gets along together really well and we laugh and joke a lot. I couldn’t imagine that back home in Germany. But in fact, if you look at the aspect of communication this is quite good because you don’t have to knock on a door or even call someone if you want to talk to him/her. You can just hop over and have a quick word with your colleague. All in all, the information flows a lot faster.

Even our boss is sitting in the same office as we are, which means that you can always have a word with him if you have something on your mind. If you wanted to have a word with the boss at the company I was working for back home in Germany you had to make an appointment first.

Of course the size of the company plays a crucial role when it comes to the layout of the offices and how many people are working in one office. And I guess it is difficult to compare an online based company selling language courses with a company selling a completely different brand.

Attitude to Work

Another thing I noticed is the attitude to work in general. I noticed that my colleagues have fun when working. You hear someone singing from time to time and I haven’t witnessed a serious argument during the 11 weeks I have been here! Another thing that is important here is that you motivate your staff – it’s for this reason that we have a champagne Friday every last Friday of the month. We work until 5pm and after that we all gather in a big room. Our boss gives us reasons to celebrate, which are mostly achievements by the staff themselves. After that we have champagne and go to the pub as a group.

All in all, these factors make Cactus a really enjoyable place to work and once I am back in Germany I will certainly miss the atmosphere in the Brighton based Cactus Worldwide office.

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