German communication – not rude, just honest and direct

Deutscher Kommunikationsstil

In Germany, generous personal distance is found between speakers in a conversation, at least an arm’s length is expected. Eye contact is also crucial, as it demonstrates attention and interest in a conversation. For those who are not used to this characteristic, it may seem weird and awkward at first, but avoiding eye contact may convey disinterest in a conversation.

Even though Germans value order, punctuality and privacy, the personal relationships between colleagues play a minor role. This is due to the fact, that there is a strict separation between business and private life. Germans take personal space very seriously. So serious, that you should never call anyone at home unless you have asked them first. Also, do not ask personal questions related to family, occupation or salary, even if you have a well-established relationship with your German partner.

Tell the truth!

A lot of foreigners in Germany may perceive it as rude to tell the truth if it could offend anyone. But Germans themselves believe that not telling the truth is ever ruder, even if it could offend someone. The belief is, that finding out about a sugarcoating lie is more difficult than getting over an offending truth. Therefore, policing each other is seen as social duty in Germany. This also means, that foreigners shouldn’t be offended if anyone corrects their behavior. It isn’t meant as an insult, most Germans just mean to help. Courtesy of the direct communication style, this is just what they do if they see someone behave wrongly on the streets.

Germans are reserved and direct at the same time, so while they might take their time to warm up around you, they speak their mind immediately. Many are offended by this direct communication style, but it is not meant as an offence. Germans who speak their mind directly and honestly do not mean a personal assault. Their direct communication style can also be seen in the avoidance of small talk, they are usually quite straightforward in conversation and get to the point immediately. Even with this upfront and honest communication style, Germans are still very formal with each other. They manage to be honest and direct without offending their counterparts.

Written word more important than spoken word

In Germany, there is a great deal of written communication going on, this is partly to back up decisions and information. The written word also has a much higher weighting than the spoken word. In a negotiation for example, if an agreement is reached in spoken form, it is not really an official agreement unless there is a contract or a statement in written form.

Felicia Greiner, editor

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