Understanding the German work culture: insights for prospective students

Beyond being known for its rich cultural heritage, thriving arts scene and quality education, Germany is renowned for its strong work ethic, timeliness, efficiency and precision. As a cultural hub with an array of working opportunities, it’s understandable that the country attracts students from all corners of the globe. If you’re travelling to Germany for work or study, you may realise that there are some differences between your own working culture and the work culture in Germany and it can be helpful to take some time to familiarise yourself with these customs to ensure you settle in.

For many, pursuing education in Germany is not just about academic advancement but it is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in a unique working culture, while having access to a range of successful global companies. Some well-known international brands based in Germany include Mercedez Benz, Volkswagen, Adidas, Porsche, BMW and many more.

Read on if you want to study and work in Germany and find out more about work life in Germany.

Work culture in Germany

As an international student, you may take on some part-time work or perhaps secure a full-time role upon completion of your degree. Understanding the intricacies of work culture in Germany can greatly enhance the experience of prospective students, whether you intend to pursue internships, part-time jobs, or full-time careers in the country.

Although it may be a cliché, Germans are notoriously punctual and efficient in their working environments. German locals are likely to boast a direct and straight to the point attitude, which may differ from what you are used to. To help navigate the German work culture, these are some areas to consider during your studies and professional life.

  1. Punctuality and reliability:

Punctuality is an important aspect of work culture in Germany. Whether it’s attending classes or showing up for work, being on time is extremely important in all cultures, but especially if you want to make a good impression in Germany. Lateness is often perceived as disrespectful and unprofessional so it’s important to always plan ahead and arrive at least a few minutes early.

  1. Structured working environment:

In Germany, structure and organisation are very important in the workplace. In traditional workplaces, there is a strong emphasis on following established procedures and protocols. As a student entering the workforce, it’s essential to adapt to this structured environment and respect the chain of command. However, this can differ in start-up companies or companies with lots of younger employees.

  1. Work-life balance:

Despite their strong work ethic, Germans also prioritise work-life balance. They believe in working efficiently during designated hours and then fully enjoying their leisure time. As a student balancing academics and work, it’s important to strike a similar balance to avoid burnout and maintain overall well-being. While studying in Germany, you will get to grips with German work life balance and be able to adjust to the work culture in Germany.

  1. Direct communication:

Germans are known for their direct communication style. They value honesty and clarity in conversations, even if it means delivering constructive criticism. As a student working in Germany, it’s crucial to communicate openly and transparently with colleagues and supervisors.

  1. Focus on quality:

German products are known for their high quality, and this emphasis extends to the work culture in Germany as well. Whether it’s delivering a presentation or completing a task, Germans prioritise quality over quantity. As a student, you should strive for excellence in your work to align with this cultural value.

  1. Teamwork and collaboration:

While Germans value individual initiative and competence, they also recognise the importance of teamwork and collaboration. Group projects and team-oriented tasks are common in both academic and professional settings. While studying in Germany, you should embrace opportunities to work collaboratively with your peers to achieve common goals.

  1. Professionalism and formality:

German work culture leans towards professionalism and formality. Addressing colleagues and supervisors with appropriate titles and maintaining a professional demeanour are highly regarded. As a student entering the workforce, it’s important to observe and adhere to these formalities.

  1. Continuous learning and development:

Lifelong learning is deeply ingrained in German culture. Professional development opportunities, such as workshops, seminars, and further education, are encouraged and supported. As a student, take advantage of these opportunities to enhance your skills and stay updated in your field.

  1. Respect your manager and colleagues: 

This a rule for all cultures, but its important to respect the authority of your manager or managers as they will be able to pass on valuable knowledge to help you with your career. Similarly, its important to treat your colleagues with respect and maintain a pleasant work environment.

  1. Consider early starts: 

Turning up to work promptly shows determination and commitment and will make a good impression when you start a new role.

Gaining work experience as a student

If you’re studying abroad in Germany, you may want to find some part time work. When looking for work experience or even jobs for international students in Germany, there are lots of opportunities listed on different websites to help you make a start in your career. A great place to start is on LinkedIn, where many different job roles in Germany are advertised. Some other websites where you can find jobs in Germany include:

These are great sites to find out about career opportunities and student jobs in Germany. If you are looking interested in working in Germany as a student, there are some specific sites for internships on your first job. JobTeaser is a great place to start. Additionally, you can access your university’s careers service, who will be able to provide you with personalised assistance. At BSBI, we have a dedicated Careers Team, ready to help you with CV edits, interview preparation and your job search.

Understanding and adapting to the German work culture is essential for prospective students seeking to integrate into the workforce effectively. By embracing the values of work life balance in Germany, punctuality, reliability, quality, and teamwork, students can navigate the intricacies of the German work culture with confidence and success. Whether it’s gaining practical experience through internships or embarking on a full-time career, the insights gained from understanding German work culture will undoubtedly enrich the professional journey of any student in Germany.

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