Scenes from a German-French meeting

Basically, everything’s been sorted out. It has been decided how the cooperation in the new joint venture will proceed. Negotiations have been underway for months and the objectives and areas of work have been defined in several meetings. Both the Germans and the French expect important advantages from the cooperation.

Special appreciation

Today, the German company welcomes its French guests at its headquarters. After a few words of welcome from the German colleague, the French delegation leader gives a speech in which he expresses his pleasure in being able to advance this project together with the Germans. He’s visibly moved. He is so pleased that, as a sign of his special appreciation of the German partner, he would like to make the offer not to restrict the planned cooperation to Germany and France, but to extend it to the whole world. The Germans freeze.

Their worlds collide

This is where their worlds collide. The French speaker wonders why his German colleagues do not immediately thank him for this brilliant offer, which – as can be inferred from his casually uttered words in French – almost amounts to a proposal of marriage.

On the other hand, this proposal has caught the Germans with their pants down; they had no idea that there would be such a surprise proposal. How should they react? Right now, they are clueless as to whether such a proposal is even feasible. What would be the estimated costs? How should they be divided? And above all: Why wasn’t this discussed beforehand and simply presented to the assembled team here? Both the reception and collaboration had been planned for months.

Is the unexpected wanted?

French negotiating partners love to score points with surprise moments (so-called “scoops”) and to put themselves in the limelight. They like to prove their ability to develop visions, which, according to the French, is what distinguishes a good leader.

This contradicts German expectations to proceed according to plan and agenda in order not to have to face the unexpected unprepared.

The bringing together of the fairly emotional side of the French and the rather pragmatic expectations of the Germans: this challenge at the beginning of any Franco-German cooperation is often underestimated.

Dr. Françoise Dorison

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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