Tory broadsheet The Daily Telegraph shines a light on The Germans in their National Cultural Profile of Germany:
Negotiating characteristics: Germans will arrive at the meeting well-dressed and with a disciplined appearance. You must match this. They will observe hierarchical seating and order of speaking. They compartmentalise their arguments, each member speaking about his/her speciality. They expect your side to do the same. They do not interfere with a colleague’s remarks and generally show good team-work throughout.
Listening habits: Germans have a long attention span when absorbing information and especially like repetition and plenty of background information. Manners and taboos: The right to privacy, both at home and in one’s office, is paramount. Eccentricity, ostentation, unpunctuality and disobedience are frowned upon.
How to empathise with them: Be frank, truthful and as honest as possible. Respect their bluntness and accept criticism when it is directed towards you. Avoid irony, sarcasm and quick wit. The people of Germany do have a sense of humour, but they do not use it at work. What amuses a German will not get all other cultures laughing too.
All reasonably accurate, as far as thumbnail generalizations for use by business types go. I love the long attention span, being the long-winded type myself.
The stuff about hierarchy is still achingly on-point, except in the most self-consciously leftie environments (and sometimes even then). One of the most amusing spectator sports is to watch Germans mixing in an environment in which status indicators are unknown, like some big conference in which everyone from entry-level employees to CEOs to professors might congregate. Lots of comically stiff, halting, impersonal conversations in which the participants desperately try to ascertain each others’ status, so as to know whether they can use formal or informal address and what subjects are appropriate to talk about: Can I confess my love of Dieter Bohlen? Or must I try to sound like I’ve read Martin Walser’s latest novel?
It’s like watching ants try to re-group after their invisible chemical trail has been interrupted.