Get vs. Give

German Approach

Holschuld: Hol from holen, to get + Schuld meaning debt. Holschuld means get-debt or get-obligation. In Germany if a colleague has information important to your work you are obligated to request that information.


American Approach

The German term which describes the American logic is Bringschuld: Bring from bringen, to get; Schuld means debt. Bringschuld means give-debt or give-obligation. In the U.S. if a colleague has information important to your work that person is obligated to provide that information.


German View

German colleagues are suprised time and again by just how forthcoming their American colleagues are with information. They gladly accept valuable information freely offered. On the flip side, when Americans complain about not receiving information, the German response is: “If you want it, just ask for it.”

American View

Americans often view their German colleagues as uncooperative and secretive. “How do we know who has what information?” This can have very damaging effect on trust, therefore on collaboration. American thinking is: “If you have it, share it.”

Advice to Germans

When collaborating with Americans switch as quickly as possible from Holschuld to Bringschuld. There are few greater sins in the American team context than hoarding information. Caught more than twice and you will pay a very high price.

Advice to Americans

Be prepared for your German colleagues being stingy with information. Don’t get angry. Don’t become resentful. Ask. Request. Get. When requesting information first state clearly exactly what information you need, for what reasons, and how that shared information will be used. This is how you overcome their tendancy to protect valuable information.