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How do you show respect?

Pic Credit: Ambro

Pic Credit: Ambro

How we accord status and who we respect is largely influenced by our cultural programming. 

Generally speaking, if you're raised in Northern or Western countries, knowledge and experience are important. So you will more naturally respect people for what they do, especially when they are "self-made", "accountable", and "go-getters". Trompenaars called this an Achievement culture. 

If you're raised in Southern or Eastern countries, generally speaking, it's more important who you are. You are probably more likely to respect people for their family name, the position they hold, their age and seniority. Trompenaars called this an Ascription culture. 

What does this mean in global business teams? 

When people from achievement and ascription cultures work together, they will show trust, respect, and leadership in different ways. They will also negotiate and communicate differently.  


For example, in Germany, team members may openly disagree with their boss during a meeting. This is seen as an exertion of their expertise; it is their job to speak up when they see something is not right or not working. That's what they were hired to do: take responsibility for their piece of the puzzle. They show respect by asking questions.

Someone who always agrees and says "yes" to everything will not be trusted.

Someone who doesn't keep eye contact will not be trusted.

Someone with various degrees may be respected, but only if they can follow up and apply their knowledge to actual problems.

To lead means to take responsibility and make decisions.

Communication is quite direct, simple yes and no answers are welcomed - they are short and efficient.

Negotiations will not be overly drawn out or going through too many rounds, because everyone is aware of the rules and pricing is set at a fair point from the get-go. 


For example, in Korea, team members will not openly disagree with their boss during a meeting; on the contrary. They show respect by taking the blame on them if the boss messes up. 

Excessive eye contact may be rude, and trust is established over years of friendships or shared connections.

Team members take responsibility for one another, and would be uncomfortable if singled out. That's why incentives pay rarely work; when one person is selected to receive a bonus or even go attend a special training, they will feel obliged to buy presents for the rest of the team who can't go to save face and remain a member of the in-group.

To lead means to take responsibility for the people who work for you.

Communication is indirect, and a direct "no" would be considered rude.

Negotiations or business talk will take time, because trust has to be established first and can be a long drawn-out process. Contracts may be seen as a starting point for the relationship, and flexibility to change contracts is expected.  


Bridging the gap

If you're from an achievement culture working for an ascription leader,

  • try not to disagree out loud in front of others.
  • Know that they may not see you as equal and might therefore be uncomfortable if you invite them out for happy-hour after work.
  • If you work with ascription team members, ask open-ended questions and watch for body-language cues. They may not tell you "no".

If you're from an ascription culture working for an achievement leader,

  • know that your opinion is valued and that it's ok for you to give it.
  • Of course, Westerners also get embarrassed, but if your feedback is too indirect, they may not hear you.
  • If you work with achievement team members, prepare for constructive feedback and learn to differentiate between the relationship and the task.
  • Criticism is rarely directed at the person, but more on aspects of how the job is done. 

Within those broad cultural differences, I also believe our personality type plays a role. In this case, our Temperament: 

People with a Theorist™ Temperament value expertise, knowledge, competence, and self-control. If they have posters up on their walls or screensavers it's likely smart experts and pioneering visionaries like Einstein or Jobs. 

People with a Catalyst™ Temperament value meaning, significance, and unique identity. They are likely inspired by authentic role models who share their journey to self-realization like Brené Brown or Oprah.  

People with a Stabilizer™ Temperament value membership, belonging, responsibility, and duty. They are likely admiring others who serve society; the every-day heroes we see in soldiers, fire fighters, and nurses.  

People with an Improviser™ Temperament value the freedom to act now, and the ability to make an impact. They may be motivated to get active for causes they believe in, or be fans of entertainers. 

So - who do you respect, and how do you show it?


I love how the answer to most question seems to be "yes, and" and "depends". The article below emphasizes how both approaches have advantages and disadvantages, and I've laid out how the location / nationality makes a difference. In other words: use both as needed, and start with the people in mind.  

from "Connect, then lead" at 

Most leaders today tend to emphasize their strength, competence, and credentials in the workplace, but that is exactly the wrong approach. Leaders who project strength before establishing trust run the risk of eliciting fear, and along with it a host of dysfunctional behaviors. Fear can undermine cognitive potential, creativity, and problem solving, and cause employees to get stuck and even disengage. (...)
A growing body of research suggests that the way to influence—and to lead—is to begin with warmth. Warmth is the conduit of influence: It facilitates trust and the communication and absorption of ideas. Even a few small nonverbal signals—a nod, a smile, an open gesture—can show people that you’re pleased to be in their company and attentive to their concerns. Prioritizing warmth helps you connect immediately with those around you, demonstrating that you hear them, understand them, and can be trusted by them.




Step 7 - Living in the Present

Picture Credit tuppus Time is an individual construct, and our concepts of time differ by personality type as well as by culture.

Numerous research is showing that the ability to practice critical awareness and living in the present without worrying about the past or future is a key ingredient in wholehearted and well-balanced living.

I often wonder if people with a Sensing preference have an easier time of focusing on the present, type theory states Sensing is a more present-oriented function than Intuiting.

People of different Temperaments have a different orientation to time (Berens, L. 2010):

  • Stabilizer (SJ) - Past
  • Improviser (SP) - Present
  • Catalyst (NF) - Future
  • Theorist (NT) - Infinite Time

Thinking about the function attitudes of each Temperament it makes sense: Introverted Sensing for Stabilizers is concerned with remembering, recalling, and reviewing, whereas extraverted Sensing for the Improvisers is more about engaging with the environment at any given moment. For Catalysts, the identity and unique potential of a person is often future-oriented and tied with personal and professional development paths, whereas the Theorist is often more concerned with ultimate truths and lasting logical systems and frameworks.

In different cultures, we also see varying attitudes and approaches to time. If a nation has existed for a long time, especially when it has celebrated successes in the past, it is more likely to draw on those past successes and value tradition. Examples might be India or Greece.

Younger nations are more likely to be more present or future focused: since they don't have much experience to look back on, they model values and behaviors towards certain ideals. Take the United States and its Declaration of Independence, for example. Going by age, as one cultural analyst puts it, the US is in the throws of teenager-hood.

When it comes to my home country Germany, I think the attitudes are mixed. Germany's 18th Century writers, thinkers, and musicians are well-known across the world, and conservative politician Bismarck in the 19th Century laid the foundation of the welfare state we know and love today. Then the second world war changed everything. Mention Germany in any conversation today, and WWII will be one of the first things that come to mind. As a recent conversation with a dog-walker in our elevator reaffirmed:

  • Woman: what a nice accent, where are you from?
  • Me: Germany, originally, but I studied in Scotland.
  • Woman: Oh, yes, I'm German too. Well, not born and raised, but when I visited Russia a woman looked at me and said "German! Bad! Pft! Pft!" (spitting at my feet).

I still don't know what I'm supposed to say to that, except I'm sorry this happened to her.

Being present in the moment and living in a state of mindfulness, then, may come easier to those who grow up in a society where present-focus is being encouraged, and those who have a cognitive predisposition to more easily stay in the present in the first place.

Still, present mindfulness is not unattainable, but a question of practice. Five minutes of daily meditation where you do nothing but focus on your breath, counting your heartbeats in and out, is a good start. Up the time as you get more comfortable, and celebrate every millisecond your monkey-brain is not off somewhere making a groceries list.

Reference: Linda Berens, Understanding Yourself and Others, An Introduction to the 4 Temperaments 4.0, Radiance House, CA, 2010



Un regalo para Pep y los otros 49 mil Españoles trabajando en Alemania

20130116-191318.jpg Estimado Señor Guardiola,

¡Bienvenido a Alemania!

Espero que se lo vayan a pasar bien en su nuevo hogar. ¿Se va a mudar con su familia? ¿Ya les ofrecieron clases sobre las diferencias entre las culturas de los dos países? En fin, hay explicaciones bien fáciles de por qué reservamos la hamaca con una toalla.

Parecemos tener mala leche porque normalmente no entran las emociones en las discusiones. No quiere decir que no nos importe, sino que queremos entender el tema y hablarlo de manera racional y calmada. Se trata de la tarea, del objetivo - no de la relación entre las personas que lo estén tratando. Hoy te grito, mañana te invito. No es nada personal. Incluso si es mi jefe, le voy a decir claramente cuando algo no funciona o si no estoy de acuerdo con Ud. No es que no le tenga respeto a su puesto, pero la calidad y la excelencia importan aún más.

Al hablar con otros, hay que fijarse sobre todo en las palabras. Los Alemanes comunicamos el mensaje que queremos transmitir por la mismísima palabra. No nos verá utilizando ni las manos ni las cejas para enfatizar un punto de vista. Como consecuencia, no leemos muy bien entre líneas y tendrá que decir claramente qué es lo que quiere. Decir que sí significa: "estoy de acuerdo". Y no: "lo entiendo". Cuando decimos "no", no pretendemos ofender, sino ahorrar tiempo, ser directos y claros en nuestra respuesta.

Ya se darán cuenta de que el sol no sale tanto en Alemania. Con lo cual valoramos nuestro tiempo mucho más que los Españoles y la puntualidad, la eficacia y la eficiencia son muy importantes. No creemos en el mañana; es más, lo que se puede conseguir hoy mejor no retrasarlo. ("Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen.")

Otra cosa que debería tener en cuenta es que a los Alemanes no nos gusta la incertidumbre. Planificamos, aseguramos, reflexionamos, y ponemos reglas para poder afrontar la vida con, por lo menos, la ilusión de estar preparados. Las reglas aplican por igual a todos, y por eso son justas. Criamos a nuestros hijos con valores de honor y responsabilidad personal. Por eso no cruzamos la calle si el semáforo está en rojo - vengan coches o no. Y no robamos la hamaca si tiene una toalla encima.

Espero que el choque cultural no sea muy grave, ni para Ud, ni para su familia. Estoy segura de que pasarán muchas horas de felicidad y disfrutarán de los preciosos paisajes. Bavaria no tiene ni playa ni chiringuitos, pero las terrazas ("Biergarten") en verano lo compensan. :-)

Alles Gute, Doris



Pack your own bags

shopping-trolleyBecause you'll have a hard time finding someone to do it for you in German supermarkets. Grocery shopping in Germany is different than in the US, and I'm not only talking about the merchandise.

It begins with the shopping trolley. They're usually parked outside the store, and you will need a one Euro coin (or a 50 Euro-Cent coin, depending on the model) to release it. The trolleys are stackable and connected with a short chain, you see. Depositing a coin is sufficiently enticing for consumers to return the trolley to its rightful place, instead of leaving it in the middle of the parking lot scratching cars. Saves negligence law suits, and personnel who this side of the Atlantic spend considerable hours collecting lost trolleys or accompanying customers to their cars only to be able to take the trolley back inside.

Then there's the merchandise, as previously alluded. Of course the German culinary scene is presentable and has reached impressive heights in the bigger cities. Still, compared to the US, the love of convenience food is not as wide-spread. Families tend to cook and prepare the majority of their meals at home. Which is why you'll find fewer choices of ready-made or microwaveable meals in the stores' freezers, and certainly fewer branches of fast food or snack-type establishments. This is a great motivation to venture into recreating family recipes, and a traditional sauerkraut and sausage dish with mashed potatoes is easily prepared.

Depending on the town you're in, farmers' markets will be held between once a week to every day. They remain the first choice for fresh meat, poultry, cheeses, flowers, fruits and vegetables, which is also reflected in the price. German discount stores like Aldi (click here to check out their US presence) or Lidl enjoy great popularity, too, especially when it comes to canned goods, bulk buys, and sanitary or cleaning articles.

Be sure to choose a good time to go shopping. Saturday mornings tend to be tedious and crowded, since most shops close early on Saturdays (around 2 p.m.) and remain closed on Sundays. During the week, opening hours are allowed to range between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., the usual hours falling between 8 a.m. and 6.30 p.m.. In fact, some stores only open until 8 p.m. one day a week, where I come from that's on Thursdays. (All things to keep in mind when you're working and stay in the office late.)

Thanks to European imports and exports, you may find labels explained in German and another language, like French, Spanish, Polish, or Italian. Depending on the article, labels might include all European languages, but personally, I don't remember seeing English very often. In other words, remember to bring your pocket dictionary, and make foodstuff some of the first vocabulary you learn! In any case, the price you see on the label is what you'll pay at the register, because value added tax (currently 19 %) is already included.

You're ready to pay, you reach the till a.k.a. "die Kasse," and you can't find plastic bags to store your food? That's because Germans have been taught to bring their own bags and baskets for many years. Certainly, you can buy plastic bags in the store when you forget to bring your own, but they'll cost you: between 20 Euro-Cents and 1 Euro depending on the size of the bag.  And yes, it is unlikely you'll have either teenager or pensioner there to help pack your bags. You can pay with cash or bank card in most locations, however, foreign credit cards are not accepted everywhere. Some registers only accept EC cards, i.e. debit cards issued by German or European banks. Checks are hardly ever used anywhere, at least not to my knowledge.

I hope you've enjoyed this little trip into the "Supermarkt," and don't forget to take back your trolley! For more information, check out these pages.

Til next time, thanks to the Wanzl company for the image of their 554 DRC-series D-15. ;-)

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