“We know that German engineers are top-notch. We have them as colleagues. However, they tend to overengineer. It’s expensive. And it’s not always what our customers have asked for, or even want. How can we get our German colleagues to engineer to customer needs?”

Get to 90%

“In so many cases our American colleagues seem perfectly satisfied with an 80% technical solution. Ok, we Germans don’t always have to aim for 99%. But, how can we get our team in the U.S. to strive for at least 90%?”

Judgement calls

“Often our colleagues in the U.S. follow certain processes and procedures slavishly, even when it is obvious that the situation requires deviation. Why are they not capable of making the necessary judgement calls?”


“On the American side there are far more processes and procedues than on our German side. And everything is documented in great detail. Yet time and again our American colleagues don’t follow what has been documented. Can someone please explain this to us?”


“We Germans in the team like and respect our American team-lead. However, she wants to be involved in the details our work. She is micromanaging us and we don’t like it. We hear the same complaint from German colleagues in other teams. What’s going on here?”

Provide too much information

“It appears to us German colleagues that our American colleagues give their customers far too much information about how we do our work, about or internal processes. And, they are eager to permit customers to influence how we do our work. Why do our US-colleagues do this?”

Too early. Too deep.

“Our American team-lead gets involved too early and too deeply in resolving conflicts amongst us colleagues in the team. He does not handle the situations in a neutral, moderating way. Why?”

Escalate so quickly

“Why do our American colleagues escalate a team-internal conflict so quickly up to our team-lead? Why don’t they show a little patience with resolving the problems among ourselves?

July 4th in Manhattan

Bob lives with his German-born wife, Katarina, and their two children in Manhattan. When the holidays approach Katarina often invites over a few German ex-patriate friends – Ingrid, as well as Heinz and Petra. Bob invites his sister, Ann, as well as an old college friend, Larry and his wife, Mary. 

All highly educated and informed people, conversation naturally gravitates towards current events, politics and society. The last time they were all together, however, the atmosphere became a little tense, turning into a competition of opinions. Larry and Mary felt uncomfortable and left early. Katarina and Bob argued in front of their guests. Ingrid and Heinz found the Americans a bit too senstive.

July 4th is coming up. Bob and Katarina want to have another party and again invite their American and German friends. But this time they decided to take a new approach, sending out invitations, with Bob providing insight for their German guests about how Americans communicate, and Katarina doing the same for their American guests about how Germans communicate. They wrote it in a humorous fashion: “Everything you always wanted to know about those crazy Americans … those crazy Germans.”

What would you write about how your culture communicates in such a situation?