I‘ve become friends with a woman in my neighborhood. Anna is new to Bonn, having moved here to take a sales job in a well known electronics and household appliance retailer, the largest chain in Germany and very successful.

Her sales training lasted four weeks. Based on what Anna told me it sounded very comprehensive and intense. The salespeople are expected to have deep technical knowledge of their products. And although they are trained in sales, as well as in how to interact with customers, it is clear that the emphasis is on the products as technical solutions.

For any of my readers who have spent time in such stores in Germany, and asked a sales person a question or two, you‘ll know what I mean about product knowledge. German salespeople can go into great depth, sounding at times as if they were involved in the product development process itself. The depth of information is often too much for us Americans. Asking a simple question seldom leads to a simple answer.

Help customers. Take pride in your work.

Such stores in Germany are called a Fachgeschäft, a term not easily translated into American English. The equivalent would be „a store with technical products, sold by staff who view themselves as experts, who will give you detailed information on the products, including letting you know what is best for you.“

What is the spirit in the hearts of these salespeople? Arrogance? Are they know-it-alls? Or is it Technikverliebheit (obsession with technology)? Those were certainly my impressions in my early years in Germany. But they haven‘t been for a long time. The spirit is: help the customer, be professional, take pride in your work, demonstrate respect.

And this spirit you‘ll find in the local bakeries, at the computer store (especially the Apple re-sellers), from restaurant servers, at the information desk of the Deutsche Bahn in any train station, at the post office, in the bookstore, with the butcher in the supermarket, and so on. And because it is deeply cultural, it is a shared logic. The German customer expects it.