February 21, 2009

How to excite a German man

That got your attention, didn't it? But I didn't mean that kind of excited.

Germans are known for being (compared to Americans) stern, phlegmatic and practical. Personally I think it's the harsh winters but I can't ignore Ralf's observation that plenty of hyper, unpractical people come from places that also have winter. So my winter theory may not have legs.

Male German bosses in particular are not given to being excited about you or emiting unnecessary compliments like 'nice job'. So if you work for a German, don't expect lots of feedback about how much you rule. Unless you totally screw up, interactions with your German boss are more likely to go something like this:

Boss: How's your project going?

You: I finished Tuesday ahead of schedule and met with Global Dynamics Wednesday to walk them through it. They loved it and want to do a bigger project with us next month.

Boss (nodding): OK. Anything else?

You: Well, I put out a small kitchen fire this morning with my bare hands and skipped lunch to finish a prototype I'm working on that predicts stock prices up to five years out and has so far been completely accurate for a two year sample. I noticed two guys trying to steal our video conferencing equipment and was able to stop them using martial arts. My cancer vaccine is also coming along nicely. Oh, and I baked you some brownies. They're on your desk.

Boss (nodding and making a few notes): OK. Do you have any vacation planned this quarter?

To be fair, German bosses are also sensitive to the ingrained suspicion all Germans have of insincere compliments. I once managed a German project team and early on (before I really got the Germans) I sent a short 'nice job' email to one of the consultants. He responded, 'What is the meaning of this?' I took the hint and immediately desisted with unwanted personal observations and everyone was much happier.

Having said that, one thing is guaranteed to excite any German man: grilled calf hearts!

I mean, what's not to like? Calf, heart, grill. . . all good things, right? This morning we went to breakfast with German friends Albrecht and Andrea and I had to laugh when Albrecht's eyes lit up like a small boy at Christmas when he saw grilled calf heart on the menu.

It is little things like this that remind me I'm not in Los Angeles any more.


  1. OK--warm fuzzies (or the lack thereof) aside--if that guy in your post is a good representation of German Maleness, My Mister better watch himself! That guy's hot! Sorry Mister! ;)

  2. This cracks me up! Especially the "what is the meaning of this" email. Every day must be culture shock.

  3. So is this the kind of boss Ralf is then?

  4. It's better than some of the high-maintenance-need-tons-of-hand-holding types.

  5. My experience of German bosses, male and female, is that they only tell you when you are doing something wrong. If you are receiving no communication, then you are doing a fantastic job, everything is hunky-dory and you should carry on regardless. There is no excitement. Ever.

    But then, I never saw them around calf liver.


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