Before you begin working your way to foreign language fluency, it helps to understand the culture behind the language you’re learning. After all, language exists to help a group of people express their ideas and beliefs. Germany is an old country with a rich history and culture. As you begin your German language program, gaining a strong grasp on this history, the values, and the etiquette will help you rapidly achieve success. In particular, German workers are known to be efficient, hard workers, but they’re far from workaholics as they appreciate a positive work-life balance.
During the week, most local and corporate shops open at around 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. and close at 8:00 p.m., but the weekends are a different matter. Many new German citizens can be caught off guard by Germany’s policy of weekend shop closing.
On Saturday, shops usually stay open until around 6:00 p.m., although they may close earlier depending on the shop owner’s preference. It is Sunday that most new Germans may find surprising – on Sundays, most stores are closed all day.
Bakeries may be open for a few hours, offering those fresh breakfast rolls that Germans and non-Germans the world over hold so dear, and twenty-four-hour gas stations or pharmacies also stand a good chance of being open on Sundays. However, these are the exceptions, not the rules.
On Christmas Eve, most shops in Germany close early, in preparation for the coming holiday. That means last-minute shopping (holiday or otherwise) is a habit that new German citizens will have to quickly shake.
With these facts in mind, it is recommended that those who have recently moved to Germany budget a little more time into their regular shopping trips. The combination of the shops’ unexpected business hours and the unfamiliar atmosphere may prove somewhat time-consuming.
Germans have a lot of time off in most cases in addition to having steady work weeks of 40 hours or less on average. Most office locations close at 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m., and Germans do not tend to work overtime.
The average German worker has up to 16 paid holidays. When the holiday comes on a Thursday, most will not return to work until Monday.
The Federal Holiday with Pay Act gives workers 24 days of vacation every year and vacation days that workers don’t take that year are forfeited. Most companies, however, are even more generous and let their employees take 25 to 30 days yearly. The months of May through August are the most popular times for Germans to take their vacations.
The country also has generous maternity and sick leave benefits. Women expecting a child have paid leave six weeks before and eight weeks after the child’s birth. Sick workers get six weeks of paid leave, with health spa visits eligible for coverage. With policies that give workers more available time, Germans have more opportunity to make the most of this time off and enjoy this unique chance when it arises.
The time you spend doing your work is easy to confuse with how it is organized and the amount you do. Many Americans and a growing number of British workers are spending the majority of their time working. It is easy to assume this is the case with the Germans too, although it isn’t true.
Germans have a different view of productivity that surprises many Americans. Taking work home, staying on the job late, and working overtime are seen as inefficiency on the part of the company or the worker. Being on time and doing the job as efficiently as possible within regular hours is part of the German work ethic. Many see this type of approach as preferable to the American and British attitudes that offer little respite from work.
Reliability also ties in with following this type of work ethic. When working for a German company, you are expected to arrive on time, stop work for the day on time, and do what is required of you in the job description. Even though this may seem like a minimalist approach to work, it has served German businesses and their employees well.
Germans enjoy a reputation for a strong work ethic. One thing that Germans hold in very high esteem is doing everything the right way. This idea applies both to actual work and the workspaces, which are kept organized and tidy.
The Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century has influenced the German work ethic, as well as the work ethic of English-speaking countries. Some of the important Reformation ideals included work being good in and of itself, especially in light of its character-building effects. Lutheranism, the dominant religious group in Germany, emphasizes hard work as a part of one’s good personal development. The northern part of Germany that was once called Prussia maintains a strongly positive view of hard work that goes back to the area’s military traditions as well.
Good social order is an important part of many cultures, and not just in Western Europe. Japan and Korea, for example, have Confucian influence that values both modesty and hard work. Understanding the roots of Germany’s well-known work ethic makes it easier to appreciate their attitudes towards hard work.
In German culture, work and play have a stronger distinction than in many other societies such as most of American society. Most Germans maintain there must be a clear distinction between the two that is never to be blurred with business professionals being particularly careful about these distinctions.
Making this distinction is known as setting boundaries, which people make without realizing on a daily basis when they compartmentalize different parts of their lives. Besides drawing clear distinctions between work and play, Germans also set fairly clear boundaries in their personal lives a distinction that is not commonly made in other groups.
There is a legitimate sociological reason that Germans use such careful boundaries in their lives. Their nation has a long history that has seen a lot of conflicts, and they are also surrounded by nine other countries with varying degrees of military power over the ages. Germany’s presence in the European Union has helped eliminate many of their economic and political barriers and time will tell whether this will have an impact on Germans socially.