denken mit auf Augenhöhe

“Bei aller Strategie bleiben wir menschlich: Wir hören zu, denken mit und kommunizieren auf Augenhöhe.” In English: “Yes, it’s about strategy. But more importantly it’s about people. We are people. We listen. We think with. And we communicate at eye-level.”

Think with. At eye-level. That’s it. The German logic. In black and white. Clear as a bell.

The quote is from gambit. A Germany-based marketing and communications agency. Specialists. Serving companies who build buildings. gambit understands architects and interior designers.

I stumbled across gambit when noticing how superb the Simonswerk website is. Created by gambit. Simonswerk. A German mid-sized company located near Hanover, with a strong presence in France, Italy, and most importantly in the United States.

And why the term gambit as the name of their agency? They provide the definition on their website: “gambit [gæmbit], n. (Schach) einleitender Schachzug, (in conversation) einleitende Bemerkung.”

From MerriamWebster: “A chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position; a remark intended to start a conversation or make a telling point.”

Hans Holbein the Younger

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497–1543) was a German painter and printmaker who worked in the Northern Renaissance style, and is considered one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century.

Holbein was born in Augsburg, Bavaria, but he worked mainly in Basel, Switzerland as a young artist. Holbein travelled to England in 1526 in search of work, with a recommendation from the great European thinker, Erasmus of Rotterdam.

Holbein was welcomed into the humanist circle of Thomas More, the Archbishop of Canterbury, where he quickly built a strong reputation. By 1535, he was King’s Painter to none other than Henry VIII of England.

Of particular interest to us as students of German culture are minutes 22:20 to 25:00 in this very interesting mini-documentary about Hans Holbein. Pay particular attention to the segment 24:00-24:37. “If you wanted precision, quality and Vorsprung durch Technik (the current motto of Audi) you bought German.”

And by the way, the documentary is done exceptionally well. Tudor England. Henry the VIII. Thomas More. And, of course, Thomas Cromwell. Very much worth watching in full.

selbständig – independent

“The team at Minderleinsmühle opened up their hearts to me. From the first minute onward I felt very comfortable. In my area I work independently. My colleagues, however, are always there for me should I need help. Every day I learn something new.” Anna, Intern in Quality Control, 2019

Minderleinsmühle near Nuremberg, Germany. From their website:

“Our mueslis & cereals, pastries, sweets, chocolates and snacks stand for high-end quality, sustainability and best taste. Under leading of the Hubmann Family, the Minderleinsmühle was arisen from a craft mill with connected agriculture to an established manufacturer in the sector of organic food. As a grown enterprise with a vision, we unify craftsmanship and experience with technology and innovation.”

Swabian Hausfrau

“One should have just asked a Swabian housewife,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel when asked about the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008.

In Germany, the traditional image of a housewife in the region of Swabia has typically been a positive one: a woman who is wise with her family’s money. Yet is there anything behind that stereotype?

A funny comment in YouTube: “I’d like to see a Swabian and a Scotsman plan a holiday together. I can only imagine the depths of destitution they would stoop to.”

Germany’s future? Look at its cars

A well-done description of the current – September 2021 – situation in Germany. By the economist. Using the German automobile industry as a window into the wider challenges to the German economy and to German society.

It’s bottom-line question is whether the German people are capable of responding to the challenges of today and the near future.

German Humor meets American Mentality

This from German Science Comedian Vince Ebert:

A comment: “A German compliment sounds like this (and I quote my brother): “You look fat in that dress, but great dress!!!”

Another comment: “In the U.S., we have a satirical News outlet called “The Onion” that writes fake stories to make fun of our culture and government. In Germany, I’ve heard their version of this is a website called “Stupidipedia” that’s a satirical version of Wikipedia, that’s full of fake, interconnected information. They made a whole encyclopedia as a joke. The Germans do in fact have a sense of humor, its just over engineered like everything else in Germany.”

“What the hell were you thinking killing all of the Native Americans?”

An interesting comment: “The smoking areas on train station platforms are actually more helping to concentrate the cigarette waste in one place so it’s easier to clean, that’s why I like this system. It’s meant to keep smoke from non-smokers but whatever… It has working benefits.”

One cliché after another. The German people have a wonderful sense of humor.

Still too direct

“Germans, in general, can often be more direct and straightforward than Americans, and to be honest even after living here for eight years, that directness is still sometimes a little shocking for me, a little bit too much, or even sometimes has made me cry!”

A comment: “Just your example about some shop assistent telling you that the piece of clothing does not fit you at all: I’m always more suspicious about a shop assistent telling me how good it fits keeping in mind he or she just wants their merchandise sold. So I tend more to appreciate an honest, though maybe direct answer.”

Another comment: “I’m always irritated how well the Americans can hide the truth of what they are thinking behind compliments and smiles. In Germany If you are getting an honest critique, then the person likes you, thinks said critique can improve you and is interested that you do better. So its a good thing 😉 “

Oh, here’s a good one: “As a German, i feel like lying when i am asked about my opinion and i would try to let it sound “nicer”. Everyone is honest and tells what they think about everything. I tried for a while the way that is used in the staates and i gat really that awfull feeling of lying and i konstantly had to think about how i say things and not what i like to say.

In my opinion germans are just used to that honesty and fee unconfortable to alter the opinion just to sound nicer. The other way around, when i meet people from the staates, i have allways that feeling they are sneaky and false, they try to hide their thoughts behind words. I was never sure how they really are and think.”

“Well, that was complete shit.”

Berliners respond to the question “Are we Germans direct?”:

And one of the comments from a German: “When I was in high school, I can remember, another student gave a poorly-prepared presentation. Directly thereafter the teacher simply looked at him and said in English: “Well, that was complete shit.”

German Leadership Style … wrong !

Here we go, another misreading of German leadership logic. See correction in ( … ):

“In Germany there is a clear chain of command in each department, and information and instructions are passed down from the top. (no, it goes in both directions) This does not mean, however, that German management is exclusively autocratic (not only not exclusively, not autocratic at all): while the vertical structure in each department is clear, considerable value is placed on consensus.

Equally, the German striving for perfection in systems and procedures carries with it the implication that the manager who vigorously applies and monitors these is showing faith in a framework that has proved successful for all.

Accordingly, German managers motivate staff by showing solidarity with them in following procedures. They work long hours (wrog), obey the rules (a cliché, often Germans will go against or ignore a process or procedure) and, though expecting immediate obedience (a terrible cliché, as if Germans were dogs), insist on fair play. For their part, German employees welcome close instruction (actually it’s the opposite, they want generally-formulated tasks, and not specifically/detailed-formulate orders): they know where they stand and what they are expected to do.”

Helpful to understand how Germans lead and want to be led, see the comparison of soccer and American football:

Why Germans don’t give compliments

The absence of criticism can be taken as praise in Germany, Courtney Tenz learned the hard way. On Compliment Day she explains why she misses “superficial” American compliments, but appreciates the German approach.

“Though it has taken me more than a decade, I have finally come to terms with the fact that in Germany, I won’t be complimented on everything I do and when  if  I garner attention for praise, it will likely be more sincere than anything I’d have heard in the US. Like the one a young girl recently gave me after I visited the beauty salon: “You look much better now that your gray hair is gone.”

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