Christopher Kirsch, intern at Sony Classical, Germany, describes the differences between German and American workplaces and how cross-cultural workplaces share strengths from both sides of the pond
Working in the media branch in Germany can be pretty much the same as in the US. Of course, the music market is much smaller, since Germany has only 82 million inhabitants. Nevertheless, it is still a prolific industry, making it the third biggest music market worldwide. It is not only that Europe and America are mentally tied to each other. Moreover, it is America’s cultural impact that has been dominated the business world in Germany and Continental Europe in recent years.
Having lived so long in the US, it was also interesting for me to experience similarities and differences between here and overseas. In Germany, for instance, it is not very common to call your colleagues by their first name – especially, if their position is higher than yours. You would rather say Mr. or Ms. At Sony though we would go by our first names, just like in English speaking countries. Generally, the English language has become an unavoidable tool in business language. Words like “schedule”, “meeting”, or “forecast” have substituted the appropriate German description.
Just imagine if the workforce of a New York-based record label would start using French or Spanish words for certain terms. One reason for this development is, of course, the international focus. Nonetheless, it also seems to be very cool using English expressions. While the French defend their language against all outer influences, Germans are highly welcoming of the new, and in their eyes, more sophisticated words. Consequently, job descriptions are in English as well. At Sony Music, you would find juniors, seniors, vice presidents, and a president.
Without any doubt, working in Germany can be very attractive for American citizens. As mentioned, the willingness to be international makes it easy to communicate despite all language barriers. Germans might not be as talented as their colleagues overseas when it comes to small talk or a certain easiness. But they are willing to help where they can, without expecting something in return.
Now, let’s deal with some stereotypes: Yes, it’s true – Germans have more vacation than Americans (around 30 work days). Yes, it’s also true – Germans are very effective workers, maybe more effective than Americans. I have the feeling that the work here is being done with concentration and is goal-orientated, with an emphasis on the detail. This clearly stands in contrast to the American understanding of work, which is defined by a more general vision and the actual outcome.
Of course we are dealing with stereotypes here, and in a cosmopolitan world, especially the entertainment world, borders are fading. But from my perspective, they still indicate a kernel of truth. I truly cannot say which system is better. Ideally, it would have a combination of both. But as I mentioned right at the beginning, every aspect of behavior is culturally tied to the country of its origin. Even if we grow together, regional specialties will always remain.
Check out Christopher’s other blog post:
Christopher Kirsch is a Music Business major who has also studied both composition and film scoring. As a composer, Christopher works in many different kind of fields ranging from contemporary film music through to classical concert music. At the age of 19, his show Viva Favela! premiered, a one act musical, for which he not only wrote the music, but also the book and the libretto. The Don Quixote Suite has become a popular guitar piece that is regularly performed in Germany and the US. His latest composition Insomnium, a concert piece for string quartet and piano, was completed in December 2010.
Read more about Christopher on his website, www.christopherkirsch.com.
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