Where Americans go into duck and cover mode, Germans see themselves in a spirited debate, perhaps an open argument or dispute, but most likely necessary in order to get clarity on an important matter.

A senior member in the German parliament meets on a Monday morning with her staff to discuss the upcoming committee work and debates in the Bundestag. She, for American ears, rips into one of her staff members, complaining about a report he had written. The other colleagues at the conference table remain still, while their colleague addresses the criticism point-for-point.

Criticism: fast, direct, hard

“Yes, I understand your dissatisfaction with how that was worked out in the committee. But if you look at my report you will see that I anticipated those questions.” He cites pages 2 and 4. The MP fires another salvo, fast and hard. Not a problem for the staffer, who is not a day older than twenty-eight. “Well, that’s not accurate, either.” He continues to explain why, cool and composed. A third salvo he deflects easily. Their boss, half-embarrassed, moves on to another topic.

Salvo: a simultaneous discharge of two or more guns in military action or as a salute; a sudden burst; a spirited attack, as in the first salvo of a political campaign.