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Differences in business culture between Germany and India

Differences in business culture between Germany and India

Differences in business culture between Germany and India exists, but the two countries work together to combat them and create a chemistry that is good for both; work culture is not a barrier for international success

Germany and India: Two wonderful countries, but two different cultures. Business collaboration between the two countries is very common, but very few realize the differences in business culture until they are into some serious project and these differences crop up. In this article we seek to examine the main “culture differences” between Germany and India and how to be aware of them.

Some common differences in business culture

Germans are stringent about structure while Indian culture has endless creative possibilities

Germans are quite structured, with each step of their project written down in as many words while their Indian counterparts are more goal oriented. At the occurrence of any problem they are more concerned with how to reach the solution rather than what caused the problem. Germans try to concentrate on the problem and raise questions like “How did such a problem come?”, “Who is to be blamed?” and so on. They brood on the problem and then focus on the solution.

Germans are meticulous about planning, while Indians are more willing to improvise along the way

Indians are famous for their perpetual bag of tricks. You will never find them slogging to find a solution, but they will most definitely come up with a good solution during a project crisis. Germans, on the other hand are meticulous planners and are famous for analyzing problems even before a project starts. In order to ensure the smoothness of the project, they consider even the remotest of problem and keep a solution ready in hand.

German culture calls for compartmentalized work and personal life; Indians tend to mix them

Another difference between Germans and Indians’ work culture is that the Germans do not mix business and personal life. Nor do they bring their spouses for business lunches/dinners. Indians, on the other hand, tend to socialize more and bring along their spouses and sometimes, even their kids. Unless it is a power lunch, you can expect the spouse of an Indian counterpart tagging along, especially when it is a welcome lunch or a farewell dinner.

Germans go right down to business while Indians tend to start on the personal aspect

Germans, as mentioned before, compartmentalize their business and personal life. When they start talking shop, Germans get right down to business matters, but Indians tend to warm up the conversation by talking about sports or politics before they get down to business. You need a little “cool-off” time before you deal with an Indian counterpart, because after all, the chemistry has to be right? One partner cannot talk business while the other is still warming up.

Germans are diligent and focused and work regular hours while Indians tend to work long hours, but take breaks in between

Germans are very diligent when they are at work. You will not find them relaxing in between. They will not take a break to take a sneak peek into Facebook or roll hours into Instagram or Reddit. Indians, on the other hand, are willing to work long hours, but you will also see them having a chit chat at the Espresso machine or sharing a gossip or two at the cafeteria.

Germans are very direct, while Indians tend to beat around the bush

Germans do not mince words, they convey what they want to say directly, which a foreigner might think as rude. An Indian, on the other hand will take great pains not to hurt the other person, and will try to put their refusal in beautiful words.

Signs, symbols difference in cultures

When you are indulging in non-verbal communication with a person who is not of your culture, it is very important to know the implications as well. For example, if you show a “thumbs-up” sign in Bangladesh, it would be considered insulting, and the victory sign of “V” when shown with the back of your hand is insulting in certain cultures.

To be keenly aware of work culture would be a major stimulant for long term success; here are some pointers to help you with that:

  • When you are conferring with an Indian counterpart, remember there is a strong hierarchy at work there; you discuss with the top people of the company first
  • Germans do not generally launch into ice-breakers when talking about serious matters; they launch directly into the heart of the matter
  • Germans work hard during the week and play hard during the weekend. Indians put in long hours, but are more relaxed; they may or may not work during the weekend
  • Indian women never shake hands with men as it is inappropriate to indulge in the act of “touching” a stranger
  • Indians do not like to say “no” even if you are discussing a concept that is totally foreign to them

Conclusion – Solving the differences in business culture is easy

Though these are the general culture differences between people of Germany and India, stereotyping them on the basis of culture wouldn’t be a good idea. Every culture has its own behaviors and belief systems that form the basis of their communication style and thinking patterns. Beliefs can be one thing that can be considered a cultural barrier, but once people start working together, understanding each other’s culture and differences, it would be easy to form a strong partnership. It would be the start of a good working relationship if you do not divide the culture as “them” and “us”. It will not seem appropriate if you consider the colleagues of your culture and country as the in-group, and the counterparts from another culture as out-group.

Cultural differences in business are not to be seen as barriers; you can use them to see things in a different perspective and create opportunities through creativity and openness.

Interesting links about the topic:

Culture difference between Germany and India
How to tackle the culture difference challenge

Pictures: Flicker/ Peter Kofler/ Province of British/ HasGeek


The author: Reema Oamkumar is engaged as a thought leader at Software-Developer-India.com which is a part of the YUHIRO Group. YUHIRO is a German-Indian enterprise which provides programmers to IT companies, agencies and IT departments.

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2 Comments
  1. and this is exactly why german engineering is being considered as the world’s best while most offshore project that are being developed in India have to be controlled, checked continuously.This is a terrible work ethic and it has to change.

    “Indians do not like to say “no” even if you are discussing a concept that is totally foreign to them”

    As a german developer I can tell you, honesty is everything. If you start developing a project where you don’t even understand the requirments (I’ve seen this happened alot to people that hired indians) then just say so. Let’s not fool ourselves, the reason why people outsource to India is because they have to pay alot less eventhough they tend to end up investing more on fixing the bugged software that’s going to be delivered (if there’s a product at all)

    • Thank you for your comment.

      It is true that issues can arise, if challenges in the project are not communicated properly.

      This can be overcome in India by:
      * Looking for people who are giving proper responses (saying what they have in mind, instead of just saying “yes” or “no”)
      * Training the developers on best practices on how to communicate with clients and project management
      * Creating a culture were mistakes are valued and are seen as valuable lessons to improve

      I have seen that developers from India can be as effective as a developer from Germany. The only thing is that we need to hire the right people and give the proper training.

      Thank you again for your reply.

      The Software Developer India team

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