Over the past eight weeks I have gotten a pretty good look into the German culture. I have been able to see the differences and similarities between German and American culture as well as the intricacies and subtleties of life in Germany. Thanks to my weekend travels I have seen how German culture varies across the country. While I have lived in Berlin for the duration of this program I have also traveled to Munich, Cologne and Hamburg. Munich, and the entire Bavarian region as a whole, is very different from every other part of Germany. The culture of southern Germany is so different that many Germans consider Bavaria to almost be another country. Everything from the food and drinks to the architecture, clothing and music is very different. Cologne and Hamburg, the two cities I visited just this past weekend, are much more similar to Berlin. Berlin as become a very modern, international city. After its almost total destruction during World War II and division during the following years it had to be almost completely rebuilt. Also, it’s presence as the economic capital of Germany and Europe draw many international influences to the city. As a result, there is little traditional German culture present in the city. Instead, there is a blend of cultures and the result is a city that feels pretty similar to those in America. English is a common language around the city making it easy to feel comfortable here. All of this has made it easy to assimilate to life in Berlin but it also meant that I had to look deeper to fully see German culture, most of the disparities were subtle differences in communication styles or daily practices. In Cologne and Hamburg there was more evidence of traditional German culture. The historical cultural influences were more apparent because at least some of them were able to be preserved over time. German food, architecture, art, history, politics and much more were easier to see. Cologne’s Old Town was one of the only parts of the city that was not destroyed during World War II but it, along with the beautiful and historic Cologne Cathedral, still hold the traditional German atmosphere. The city has evidence of Roman influences, restaurants with traditional German food and plenty of museums/historic sites that preserve the history and culture. Hamburg, a port city, had the same qualities but in different ways. Traditional German food was served but consisted of a lot more seafood and life was centered around the port. Nonetheless evidence of traditional German culture was apparent throughout the city.
While history and globalism has caused the culture in Berlin to become diluted it still exists. It is easier to see in certain neighborhoods or workplaces that are more culturally isolated causing a slower rate of change. I have been able to more deeply appreciate the cultural differences in my workplace. While the workplace culture may not be what I was expecting, I believe it is still an accurate representation of the trends throughout Germany. I believe the more casual environment is the cultural manifestation of the ongoing generational shift. A lot of the characteristics about my office are similar to the business culture in the U.S. This includes how success is defined in my office. Since my company primarily deals in digital marketing services success is measured first in the customers satisfaction with our work. If our clients are not happy with the work that we are giving them then we have failed. This includes meeting all deadlines and completing assignments in a satisfactory manner. Success is also measured through various KPI’s. Our KPI’s generally include different metrics that tell us how our ads are improving our clients businesses. These can include number of clicks on our ads, amount of web traffic or sales that our ads generate or increasing awareness about our clients business or products. Ultimately the KPI’s are determined by our clients goals and the purpose of our campaigns which are tailored to meet those goals. Overall a successful employee in my company is one who consults the client through every step of the marketing cycle, constantly adapts our services to meet their specific and changing needs, works diligently to complete all of their tasks by the specified deadlines and to the best of their ability, pleases the client and ultimately generates revenue for the firm. To be successful within the company also requires the employee to have good interpersonal and communication skills to get along and work well with their coworkers. None of this is too different from the U.S., although some of the ways in which these things are executed are slightly different. For example communication styles are very different so while the goal of pleasing the client is the same employee-client or other professional communication is different than in the U.S.