The American. The German.

Question “Is it accurate – and helpful – to refer to the American? What do a New Yorker, a recent Mexican immigrant in Texas, and a Californian have in common?“ UC There are several aspects at play here. Let’s go one at a time: Broad and deep consensus This is … Read more

Voicing Criticism in America

Question “I have the impression that Americans shy away from using criticism, be it in personal conversation or at work. In Germany it is accepted to express objective criticism when appropriate. But in conversations with Americans everything is always great. On what level is it socially accepted to voice concerns … Read more


Question “Why is it that so many Americans – in comparison to us Germans – approach difficult situations with more optimism and are spielerisch (playful, relaxed, hands-on)?” UC Dealing difficult situations involves risk. Americans and Germans differ in how they define, calculate and react to risk. Difficult situations are also … Read more

Great question!

Question “I have picked up from my American faculty colleagues that their first response to a question from a student is ‘Great question!’ before answering the question. One of the German faculty colleagues once mentioned that this may come across to German students as patronising. What is the best first … Read more

Macro vs. Micro Goals

Question “I find my German counterpart likes to break down tasks into micro goals. I tend to keep macro goals in view but not bother recording the steps along the way. Is this cultural or just us?” UC Yours is a question I have never been asked. Nor have I … Read more

Consensus vs. Top-Down

Question “As a practical matter, how does German consensus-style decision making differ from the American top-down approach? Is it more efficient? Does it produce better results? Is it easier to implement because of the buy-in of all the parties? Can these factors even be measured?“ UC Well, you can’t get … Read more

Americans don’t make decisions

Question Our American colleagues appear to be reluctant to make decisions on their own. Either they will not make a decision or if they do, they will do so only on the condition that they get the final OK or the final sign-off from their boss. Why is this so? … Read more

No more meetings!

Question “Our two companies were merged about a year ago. Post-merger integration has been completed. Recently we have begun experiencing cultural problems. More and more often our American colleagues refuse to participate in meetings. They simply say ‘No more meetings!’ We don’t know how to react. What should we do?” … Read more

Americans are cowboys

Question “Our German colleagues are risk averse. They see us Americans as taking unnecessary risk. We see them as doing far too much analysis. Germans think we’re cowboys. How can we beat the cliché that we are cowboys?” UC It won’t be easy to get the Americans-are-cowboys cliché out of German … Read more

Prose Text vs. Diagrams

Question “Why do Americans prefer describing processes in prose text? Germans prefer diagrams, which can then be combined to illustrate processes. The German approach seems to be übersichtlicher (clear, clearly arranged).“ UC A interesting point! Germans brief I’ve seen many process documents in both cultures. The Americans seem to use both prose … Read more