Cultural Impressions of Germany – AIESEC Internship Report

It was a Thursday afternoon when I first arrived Frankfurt last year. I was thinking that I will start working on Monday but I was surprisingly invited to a business dinner with my colleagues. I had chance to meet some of my colleagues from my team in a restaurant, not in the office :) At my first day in Frankfurt I realized the importance of  being aware of cultural differences and the business etiquette. This picture reminds me of my first and special moments in Frankfurt. To be honest it was not easy to choose a suitable dress for this dinner. Then; when to arrive, how to give a handshake, greet people, how to order a meal..etc. Questions about typical cultural topics were in my mind. In this article I would like to share my cultural experience during AIESEC internship in Frankfurt and give some practical tips.

  • My Workplace

My office was in the headquarter of a large IT and Telecommunications company. As usual in my own country we did not have an open office. As team we had separate rooms with 2 – 3 people. At work, my team was very friendly, open and willing to teach and show things to me.  As I said before, I was even invited to a dinner with colleagues just after my arrival in the evening. So, it was a good opportunity to meet them in a comfortable atmosphere. The day after I had less stress when I came to my office for the first time.

The way of addressing was different than my country. In Turkey, we are friendly, warm and open to small talks any time but as I could not address my boss only with her name during my previous internships, here in Germany it was hard to call my boss only with the first name. However, I could do it after a few weeks and it does not mean less respect. I would say despite a hierarchical structure, one could not have a feeling of being subordinate. In summary, communication and form of address was in an informal style, although I have always heard different about Germans like they are not open to communicate and it was not possible to address with a first name at work.

In the meetings and presentations, all team members’ opinion and suggestions are listened and considered. We, as an intern also had to chance to talk, interpret and give our opinions to a point likewise other employees, which was quite important for me. I had a feeling I am really a member of the team.

Time management was a very important topic in our team. I do not remember that we started late to our meetings. As known very well, I could also observe that Germans are very punctual unless there is really an important reason. We always had an agenda for the meetings, where we could see who will present about his/her project. Normally, we could listen and follow the updates of our topics. This allows the team to be informed regularly on the basis of different aspects of the projects. In our team the discussions of the problems and the solutions are made in a democratically way.

My experiences with my boss: My boss was very friendly, honest and a good team leader. I had chance to talk to her about each topic like the points that I did not understand well about our processes and projects. On the other hand, she was also helping and trying to understand our private life and situation, which motivates a lot and feels that you can get support from her. The way how she acts is realistic and at the end of my internship she tried to show me the right way to improve myself for my further career steps. In our assessment talk, we point out some development measures regarding my way of work, soft skills and competences.

Language at work: At the beginning it was hard for me to understand abbreviations in German but after a while I could follow all topics both in German and English. My colleagues tend to talk in English with me but normally we switched from German and English very often.

Networking: I had so many opportunities to know and meet new people during my internship. I was regularly participating to the events, training programs and workshops, where I could enlarge my network and contacts.

Differences at work: There are not so many differences but I would say that in Germany work and life balance is strictly separated form each other – the way of addressing and communication preference are also different.

In Turkey, as an intern I was not integrated to the team as much as here and I was fully satisfied with it. Another point is that people here at work, do not talk about their private life or problems as we do in Turkey generally. Germans are more focused on their task and efficiency.

  • Experience in daily life

I worked with people form Slovakia, Spain, Mexico in the office (of course many Germans :) ) also we had many web conferences and telephone calls with employees from all other Local Business Unit’s. Personally, I did not have any difficulties to work with them. However, on the telephone calls, it was hard to understand different pronunciations.

As I already mentioned although there is not a huge difference I can say that we Turkish people are more relationship oriented while Germans are task. On the other hand, In Turkey, I could not call my chef with his/her first name or not so many responsibilities was given to me as here. In Germany of course you will always feel the distribution of tasks, authority but this is like a little bit hidden and not obviously shown. I think, in this way people can work better in a less stressed daily routine.

For the quick integration I would say to meet other interns at the company and also from AIESEC in the city, where you have placed. One excuse would be that you do not have time after work or you would be tired but use your time to build your network.  Before your arrival,you can also do some research about the host country, your company, team, values at work etc.  and I would also suggest learning a little bit more about business German vocabulary.

  • Leisure time

I was often going on a lunch/dinner with my colleagues.  These meals allowed us to make personal contacts (with colleagues from another departments as well)  and to continue discussing business issues in a more casual atmosphere. After the first day experience , I could observe the German attitude in a restaurant.

First of all, nobody begins eating until everyone at the table has been served and of course everyone says “Guten Apetit” to each other. I was also impressed that the Germans usually clean their plates. So, only take as much food as you plan on eating and don’t begin drinking until everyone has something to drink and a toast has been made. Furthermore, when you or others are eating, keep your hands on the table, not under it.

During my internship I organized for my colleagues a Turkish night at “Sümela Restaurant” in the centre of Frankfurt. It was great to see how they were impressed with the taste of Turkish foods. (not only Döner :) ) It is very elegant restaurant, with nice staff, decor and life music.  I also made a Turkish culture quiz and gave some Turkish cookies to the winners :) It was really fun to see the results and what they knew about Turkey.

Advises

  • Be aware where you want to see yourself after your stay in the host country. Organize your stay and check what is your point to be here and which parts you want to improve such as language skills, business network, traveling…etc
  • Be very out going and open minded. Building an international network, this is very interesting.
  • Plan your time. It may sometimes does not work as you want but try to full your free time also. If you want to see more cities do so. If you wan to improve your German skills, find a language course and register yourself. Do not wait so much because time goes very fast than you expect.
  • Take this chance and show who you are and what talents you have. This internship opportunity may turn a professional employee relationship. Check the possibilities and show them that you are open to any interesting and challenging projects. Take initiatives and prove what you can do!
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One Response to Cultural Impressions of Germany – AIESEC Internship Report

  1. Gözde Imamoglu says:

    It would be very practical if you also add your own experiences and cultural differences that you have faced before.

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