Living in Germany

To live and work in in a foreign country can lead to unfamiliar situations that can pose difficulties for the emigrating person at all times during the stay abroad, but especially in the beginning of the stay. Experience shows that these situations arise in different personal face-to-face interactions, be it on vocational levels with new colleagues, attending to official business or during leisure time. Problems arising in these spheres of activity may be due to cultural differences and may lead to them being transferred to a personal level and being misinterpreted as offending or even discriminating. This kind of occurrence is generally referred to as "culture shock". However, many of these situations complicating a stay abroad can be prevented or attenuated in advance by dealing with cultural practices of the host country intensively.

Typical process of staying abroad

The following depicted phases may be experienced while staying abroad:

First Phase

In the phase before starting the journey to the host country many feel a sense of insecurity, but in most cases pleasant anticipation of a new life situation prevails. By analogy the initial phase in the new country is primarily positive: There is much to do and to discover, differences between the host country and the home country are perceived with fascination. This first phase of euphoria, also called "honeymoon phase", is commonly followed by a rougher period. This phase, often called "culture shock", is often triggered by first obstacles in the new country, e.g. adaptive difficulties to cultural practices, missing social contacts or language barriers. A typical response during this phase would be increased orientation towards people from one's own cultural background. In the worst case scenario the stay abroad would be prematurely terminated. Through soundly dealing with the country's characteristics or participating in an intercultural training, a culture shock may well be prevented or attenuated.

Second Phase

After overcoming this first difficult phase and a certain period of settling in, one learns to find one's way in the new environment and is able to compare the host country's often still foreign characteristics with those of one's home country more unbiasedly.

Third Phase

After overcoming this first difficult phase and a certain period of settling in, one learns to find one's way in the new environment and is able to compare the host country's often still foreign characteristics with those of one's home country more unbiasedly.

Intercultural Training

Each semester the Welcome Centre offers an intercultural training with focus on Germany and it's culture. In this context, topics pertinent to a stay in Germany will be approached, for example the proper handling of hierarchical structures, making contacts on a personal and on a professional level, leisure activities, as well as professionel and personal time management. Our trainers have been working with different universities and well-known companies for many years and use different media during the intercultural courses, e.g. movies and different working methods, e.g. group work to facilitate access to Germany, it's residents, as well as their habits.

Typically German?!

Dos and Don’ts in Professional Situations

Family and friends

The “Consumer Analysis 2010” study recently showed that Germans are considered to be very sociable – contrary to all clichés that they are reserved and have no sense of humour. Professional performance and success are particularly important for most Germans, as is leisure time, which is best spent with family and friends. And the Germans like beer!

Even if one cannot speak about “the Germans” as a homogenous group with similar features we would like to make special mention of a few “characteristics”.


In professional situations, Germans place great emphasis on being correct and punctual. It is therefore helpful to keep to the agreed time for meetings or presentations. This also applies to private appointments. If you cannot keep an appointment or are likely to be late, it is advisable to give notice of this in good time through a colleague or by telephone.

Greeting People

When greeting and taking leave of people, it is customary to shake hands and look at the person. It would be impolite not to make eye contact – this also applies in direct conversation with someone. Hugging is only customary among close friends.


Unless you know someone well, and for people in a senior person and older colleagues, do not use the “Du” form, unless they have offered it to you; you should address people using the “Sie” form. At the institute, however, academic titles are usually omitted when addressing people and the “Du” form has now become widely established among younger people. If you are unsure, it is best to wait until someone introduces himself/herself and use the appropriate form.


It is said of the Germans that they are very direct in their dealings with one another and in communication. This is true. Germans tend to get to the point quickly and work and communicate in a focused and result driven way.

Sticking to the point

Because they are more focused on facts, Germans tend to make presentations that are very specific and based on figures and background facts. Therefore, be aware in your own presentations that this is what is required. The tone in meetings can sometimes be rather brusque. The reason for this is normally the committed debate or discussion. This may occasionally have an unfriendly effect; however, from a German perspective, this is simply a means to an end and does not have anything to do with personal esteem. You will see that a possibly strict tone will quickly revert to normal at the end of the meeting. Do not be confused if you do not receive any positive feedback or praise for your work. As long as no one says anything, you can assume that everything is OK….


There are clear divisions between the different levels in the hierarchies. It is always advisable to be aware of the status of the people you are working with and not to by-pass the individual levels in working relationships. However, there is no discrimination in hierarchy between men and women. Women have equal rights and work in top jobs – although much less often than men. It is quite common in families for both parents to work; more and more men are taking time out to bring up their children while the woman goes out to work. A woman’s instruction must be followed and carried out just as those of male colleagues. A common approach by men and women is not unusual and should therefore not be interpreted in any particular way.


Even away from the work environment, you may find that an anonymous person will point out alleged “mistakes”, for instance if someone supposedly makes too much noise in their apartment, has parked incorrectly or has taken an allocated space. Take this in good part (it is a learning curve for all of us…) and just ask your International Officer any time how to deal with this kind of thing – or if anything seems strange, or you are unsure of anything.



Professional Development Office

The Professional Development Office offers a wide range of events to all employees of RUB. In this programme you may also find some trainings with intercultural focus.

Professional Development Office


There are many possibilities to culturally prepare for a stay in Germany even before departure. One possibility is to buy relevant publications. You may find a list of interesting books and websites here:

References: German Culture   (178.9 kB)


You may find further information on our intercultural trainer here:

Dr. Iris Wangermann


Hanna Kloza

Pamela Domke