Communicating Across Borders


This week at work, I got to help with and sit in on a few meetings that were held with future partners about one of the products my host company has. It was interesting to see how the meetings are conducted here compared to America. The interesting thing was that these meetings were not a quick one-hour chat, they were an all-day event. The guest would arrive at 11 and not leave until 4 in the evening. As for this past weekend, I spent it in the Polish city of Szczecin. It is very close to the German border so the bus ride there was not very long, only 2.5 hours. It was a nice smaller city, with a river splitting it in half. I started by touring the city, seeing some of the tourist things, and I also stopped by the city’s soccer stadium. I got to try two traditional Polish meals while I was there and they were very good. The first one was żurek, a soup that consisted of sausage and egg. The second meal was called kotlet schabowy and it was served with potatoes and mizeria. It was a fried pork cutlet, served with potatoes and a cucumber yogurt salad. The meals were very different than everything I  had ever had before so I was happy that I got to try them. In the evening, I went to a little theme park that had some carnival rides such as a ferris wheel, a haunted house, and a few small roller coasters. It was definitely a bit nerve-wracking to go somewhere where I did not speak the language. Here in Berlin, even if I miss a few words, I still understand the general concepts of conversations, but there I could not understand anything as the language was like nothing I had ever heard before. 

Throughout my time here so far, I have noticed a few communication differences. A few I knew about before I came here, that is the way they deliver feedback and the separation of work and personal life. With the feedback, I knew that they were very direct and did not soften the feedback by saying things like, “You did this well, but this could be better.” They are quick to point out what was done wrong and what can be improved upon and that is it. As for the separation of work and personal, I feel like they do not talk about their personal lives at work. The only time we really talk about things like what we did over the weekend or our plans for the evening are over lunch or as we are walking out the door at the end of the day. This allows for a more productive workday where all the work gets done effectively and then there is time to chat after. The other thing I noticed outside of work is that people in general are not very big on small talk. When it comes to miscommunications, there have been a few. For example, when I am out and using my German for things like shopping, ordering food, or asking for directions, if I miss a word that was spoken, I may miss what they said or interpret it a different way. In times like this, to make sure that I am responding correctly, I may ask them to repeat what they said so that I can hear it again a second time. I try my best to use my German as much as possible so resorting to English is the last thing I try if I still cannot understand. As for the hybrid work environment, most of my work is done in the office. It was only this past week that I got to work from home for the first time. I would say the biggest challenge with working from home vs in the office would be the accessibility to have things clarified. For example, if I am working in the office and have a question about something, my supervisor sits rights across from me so I can just ask and get an answer right away. However, with working from home, that is not there. It is more on me to work through things and be more independent. Email responses are not always immediate and by the time I have gotten a response, I may have solved the issue, so I always give myself a bit more time to try and solve things. That is the one thing I like about the hybrid environment is the independence to work through things and in a way, create my own work schedule.

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