Surviving a German Office

No one really likes work, unless of course you’re some kind of sadist. Either that or you happen to be one of those people who have a “dream” job, in which case stop reading this article and go and be smug somewhere else. As I was saying, work is often just something to supply a person with enough money to buy some super fly kicks or to chuck liberally at whatever barman is the closest. Despite this, working in a different country does keep you interested, if only for the fact that your co-workers will occasionally do something so obscure it wouldn’t look out-of-place in a David Lynch movie. Although I’ve never seen a dancing dwarf at work, it’s not beyond my German co-workers to do some quite random things and as ever I’m here to write it all up in a tidy list for your enjoyment. So, as ever, I present a guide on how to survive the German office.

You better be working your ass off

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Despite all the stereotyping,  Germans actually work fewer hours than the European average. When I heard this, I thought ‘finally, Britain is more successful than Germany at something other than tea consumption and sarcasm’. Sadly it wasn’t until I actually walked into a German office that I discovered the terrible truth. Sure, Germany may work less, but when they sit at their desks they suddenly turn into some time travelling robot, hell-bent on filling out all the Excel spread sheets in order to prevent the apocalypse. Since the world didn’t end recently, I can only assume whatever their doing seems to be working. To balance this insane work ethic, they take their time off as seriously as…well…Germans. This, of course, answers the age-old question of how German holiday makers get the best sun loungers; it’s because they’ve been at the hotel for almost a month.

Be direct or be forgotten

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German is a direct language, and it takes some getting used to. German’s have no problem telling you exactly what they think about you and your work. This can lead to some problems, but at least you know where you stand, in the corner, with a dunce’s hat on. It does have its upsides though. For instance, you rarely hear of the Anglo-American dilemma that revolves around a girlfriend asking her significant other about the relative size of her keister in various types of jeans. That’s because German women know what the answer will be before they ask, and they don’t need to hear it out loud. No self-respecting German woman wants to hear ‘Yes, your bum looks like a sack of hammers in those jeans. You should stop eating so much cake…cakey’. In the work place, be prepared to hear the negatives as well as the positives, but mostly the negatives. If you have a tough skin, you’ll have absolutely no problem. I don’t, which is why you can quite often find me in a cubicle, huddled in the fetal position and sobbing into a hanky.

Small talk is for the weak

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The British and Americans love a bit of small talk. It’s what makes a dull meeting slightly less dull. The chance to discuss the intricacies of weather conditions or how various sports teams are progressing is what we live for. Both parties involved in small talk know the other couldn’t care less, but it’s the dance we do, like a verbal tango without the sexy bits. Germans know this too, and therefore see absolutely no point in asking about your family, the weather or if little jimmy got picked for the football team. Ironically, Germans harbor a secret desire to be part of the world of small talk. They would love to tell you about their weekend or that little Jürgen scored in the recent handball game but the pressure to fill in those excel spreadsheets enforces a strict no small talk policy. If you do fancy confusing a German colleague, ask them about their weekend, or even better corner them to talk about what you did instead.


Is this an office or Sherwood Forest?

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I mentioned a few posts back that you will frequently find whole trees adorning German flats and houses. Not satisfied by adding ridiculous foliage to their houses, Germans will often find any pretense to hoy a plant or ten around the office. I found these particular examples hiding in a long forgotten hallway. One I could have understood but for some reason, best understood by this particular company’s grounds man, they opted for four. Four trees, really? I actually have a theory about these four; originally there were only two but they bred and are slowly reclaiming the floor in the name of the Paleolithic era. I half expect to be eaten by raptors on my next visit, and that’s why I carry a military grade shotgun. Clever girl!

I think this is art, but I’m not quite sure

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Sure, the working day of the German office spod may be intense and short, but they do get the opportunity to peruse the wide selection of curious art that litter the walls of many a sterile, tree infested office space. I particularly like these two. The colours and strokes remind me clearly of the last time I suffered from a chronic sinus infection. Sadly, these two are not for sale, but I did see a number of similar ones for sale at around €200 which I personally reckoned was optimistic at best. Then again what do I know?  Not satisfied with making the office a cross between a botanical garden and the Tate modern, I imagine the next step is to start adding sculptures and then zoo animals. Just think how much more interesting work would be if when you went for lunch you could observe replicas of the Venus de milo, a rough estimation of modern art, take in the jungle and pet a zebra all before you even reach the canteen. After lunch, you can jog off your sandwich by running hell for leather as a tiger chases you to the elevator. Who said they didn’t like work?


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