Clash of German and Greek cultures

The perception of the population of Greece that it is now locked into an unholy relationship with Germany is not one it enjoys for obvious reasons. But apart from the financial aspect of the arrangement there are also business cultural differences that make for an unhappy alliance.

Greece is a population of patriots whose dedicated loyalty to the country is almost matched by its dislike of its public administration, which it often treats with contempt. The public sector is considered to be wasteful, inefficient, often corrupt and overfunded. An attitude that is not assisted by government agencies dominating the economy.

Given that Greek people do not like their own government interfering in their lives, they were never likely to warm to the idea of German politicians seemingly telling them what to do. This is not helped by the way the two countries like to run things.

The business management style of Greece is based on a hierarchy in which senior managers issue verbal instruction. Misunderstandings are not uncommon within this process. Subordinates are usually not expected to improvise, and the top down structure does not encourage discussion or collective problem solving.

In Germany everyone at all levels within companies are aware of exactly what is expected of them due to the formal written frameworks that are adhered to. There is no margin for misunderstanding.

There are defined hierarchies within German business, but once tasks have been allocated individuals or departments are left to fulfil their roles. This is because the success of the German economy is to a large extent based on corporate and individual expertise in specialised areas. Individuals are expected to know their job and get on with them, which they do.

Perhaps the most telling difference between Greek and German business culture is in meetings. In Greece they are a forum for free expression, and frequently discussion strays away from the agenda with more than one person at a time trying to hold the floor. Emotion can run high when making a point. Making minutes of meetings is optional.

Outsiders sometimes consider Germans to make decisions ahead of meetings taking place. This is because they thoroughly plan and prepare figures and use them to promote the logic of their particular position. To the uninitiated this can come across as being too assumptive.

In Germany meeting are run to schedule with individuals waiting in turn to talk. Any sign of emotion is considered a point of failure.

In describing the business culture of any nation it is easy to turn generalisation into caricature, which is not only incorrect it is also unjust. But there is no question that practices and behaviour in Greece and Germany are at odds with each other. And it is also important to take into account that the situation is compounded by the fact that Germans find it difficult to understand how Greece could get itself into its current situation. Communication is not improved by the German habit of having a direct approach to communication rather than a diplomatic one.

It all adds up to a strained relationship, and one without the prospect of any happiness in the short and medium term. It is always important to try and identify some positive aspect to every scenario, but from the way in which each party is shaping up a conformational future rather than one of collaboration and understanding is most likely.

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