Christine Lin has worked for a multinational American bank in Frankfurt, Germany, for the past four years. She was born in Taiwan, raised in the United States, educated in the US and the Netherlands and spent part of her finance career in New York and London.
There are many nuances expats face while working in Germany. For one, Germans are very conscious of schedules. Even telephone calls go on a schedule. “When you have to work late, Germans may perceive this as being disorganised,” explained Hodge.
Those are things Lin has learned along the way, too.
BBC Capital: What did you expect before moving to Frankfurt?
Lin: I kept an open-mind — it made it easier to integrate. Now, I notice more and more what’s German and what’s not. There are language and cultural differences. It’s easy to be misunderstood because of the nuances in cultural communication styles. In the United Kingdom, “I’m afraid I might not be able to attend the meeting,” means you won’t be able to attend, but not to a German. Sometimes things are lost in translation when we all speak English together.
BBC Capital: What’s the work culture like?
Lin: Work is organised with lots of rules and procedures. Here, people use military time because it’s clearer. And they plan in advance — they like that it’s there and in the calendar.
When I first came here, to make an appointment with people for lunch, they would plan to have lunch two to three weeks in advance. They’re very precise. If they want to meet today, they say, “Would you like to have a spontaneous lunch?”
BBC Capital: Your biggest cultural issue so far?
Lin: As an American, we make jokes before meetings or conference calls but in Germany, no one cracks a smile. You try to break the ice by being humorous. In America, it would have been appreciated.
BBC Capital: How do you cope?
Lin: Sometimes you have to laugh it off. I keep an open mind, observe and am willing to try different approaches. (Thinkstock/Christine Lin)