10 Things I’ve Learned After One Year In Germany

I moved to Germany in January 2015.

From San Francisco.

Actually Alameda, but a distinction with little difference.

I moved form the most expensive place in the U.S. to the second most expensive place in Germany. The Bay Area is still two and a half times more expensive.

Comparing prices is not the point. The point is to share a few things I have learned after a little over a year of living in Germany.

I am now gainfully employed with a Startup that is doing big things for the speed of the Internet, as well as enjoying the European lifestyle.

Germany is in the Western World, which means the lifestyle and cultural differences are not too great. The biggest difference is language.

Here are 10 things I have learned after living a year in Germany.

Go for long walks

Walking is very European, and the cities in Germany are designed to make walking to destinations easy. Also, parking is difficult.

More importantly, going for a stroll is important for health and relaxation. Sunday’s, everybody goes for a “Spaziergang”. The direct translation is to go for a relaxing stroll. The English word would be a “promenade”, but I think this is a bit pretentious.

I enjoy my Sunday Spaziergang.

Don’t be so sensitive

Sensitive in the German language, according to my German teacher, is a negative word. You are encouraged to be direct, so you need thick skin.

Don’t be offended so easily.

Pay with cash

When I lived in America I never carried cash. Always payed with a credit card. I treated this as cash, as I lived within my means. I know that this is not the norm for most Americans. But for Germans, the only reason to have a credit card is to make purchases online. Credit card rewards programs are uncommon.

The result is people do not have credit card debt, and if they do not have the money, they do not buy things. I think the byproduct of this is prices stay significantly lower. Making the standard of living a bit more affordable.

Take time for lunch

Regularly I worked and ate lunch at the same time. This was done either through a working lunch while in trainings, or eating while driving. Currently, I take time for lunch. This is sitting in the kitchen and eating. The view is this is an important break during the day.

A side note to this is multitasking. It is viewed to be more productive to do one thing at a time, and lunch is no exception. There is evidence to suggest that people cannot multitask.

We are not so busy or important that we cannot take 30 minutes for lunch.

Don’t work too late

When you continually stay late at the office, Germans view this negatively. This is viewed as not having a good home life.

The question asked: why would you not want to go home and see your family?

Make communication easier for your listener

In America we do not learn languages. Although more of the world does not speak English than does, there is an expectation that people should try to communicate with us. Not the other way around.

When your language is not a world language, this perception is very different. It is normal to speak multiple languages to better communicate with people. The view of communication is to make an effort to communicate in a way that is easier for the person you’re speaking with.

Enjoy long dinners

Dinner at a restaurant in Germany is an affair. It regularly takes 3 hours to have dinner at a restaurant. The reason is nobody is there to rush you. The point of dinner is to sit and have nice conversation with those you are with.

Otherwise, why would you go?

You can want what you want

Just because you want something does not mean you are going to get it. There’s not much I can say about this statement. It speaks for itself.

Don’t make quick decisions

When purchasing a car, my wife and I wanted to sign the paperwork that day. This is normal to us, as in America you are not allowed to walk off the lot without purchasing something.

This was not possible in Germany. We looked at a car on Friday night and were forced to call back Monday to confirm we still wanted the car. We had to take the weekend to think about it.

Do not make quick decisions. It is better to sleep on it.

There is a different way, be open to consideration

Food is different in Germany. Two examples:

Eggs do not have to be refrigerated. Why? They are not washed. When you wash eggs, you remove a microbial layer on the eggs that protects them from salmonella. Without the protective layer, you need to put eggs in the refrigerator to prevent salmonella. In order to not wash eggs, you can no longer cage the chickens. The result is cage free eggs you do not need to refrigerate.

Pork can be eaten raw. There is a meal called “Mett”, which is raw pork. We believe in America that pork has to be cooked, and over cooked at that. But Mett proves this is not so. I have tried Mett, did not get sick, and it isn’t bad.

There might be better approaches to things, especially food. We just have to be open to try.

Your urgency is not my problem

In the American business environment, everything is urgent. It is not easy to be proactive, as most of the day is reactionary.

Ignoring the urgency of others might be something worth emulating.

kein Stress, kein Angst

This is the German phrase for “no stress, no anxiety”. Stress and anxiety are viewed negatively, which results in a more peaceful and zen-like environment. I still have the inherent American anxiety, which living in the Bay Area puts this feeling on steroids.

It is difficult to suppress these feelings with the number of top 30 under 30 lists being produced. The feeling of inadequacy when you have not made your first billion by 25 is tough to overcome.

Maybe kein Stress, kein Angst is better for our health?

I know I said 10, but there is too much I have learned over the past year that I felt compelled to share. Although, this is not a complete list.

There are things I find better in Germany, but America has a business appeal the world envies. It is not that one Country is better, just different.

Productive Procrastination—Don’t Let Busywork Consume You

The best time for creative endeavors is between 2 – 5 hours from the time you wake up.

What is the first thing you do after waking up?

Mine tends to be looking at my phone for emails, social media, and general “waking up.” Looking at what potential problems may greet us before going to the office. In other words, avoidance of the real work at hand.

Arriving at the office, the first thing I tend to do, and most of the people around me, is check email. Discover the problems other people would like us to take care of. This is the start of a reactionary day.

On the surface, this appears to be productive. Taking tasks of the to-do list. But not all tasks are created equal.

This scenario is productive procrastination.

Living in the small tasks that make us think we are productive. In the context of our mornings, maybe this is “warming up” for the day.

In the context of solving important problems, it is avoiding difficult work and providing effective solutions.

Productive procrastination is busywork. It’s like a bad drug. You feel great while doing it, but afterwards, you’re left wondering what happened. Where your day went.

Productive procrastination is dangerous. Especially, when we continually let ourselves fall into busywork during our peak energy levels. Allowing the tasks which do not deserve our optimal energy, to consume the most productive parts of our day.

If you have set your priorities, then you already understand what work will generate the largest impact to your business.

Why not get started with this first?

Good luck and good selling!

Delegation—Empower Those Around You

Delegating tasks is about empowering people. It lightens your work load. It is inclusive.

Failure to delegate puts the pressure on. All the responsibility is yours. Therefore, when things do not get done, as they may not, there is only one person to blame.

An unwillingness to relinquish control and delegate, shows there is a lack of trust in those you work with. A lack of trust in the system you created. A failure to define and explain a vision. It provides no upward opportunities for those you work with.

Delegation is a skill, which requires developing a system that can be repeated. It means defining your vision, your companies vision, and finding the correct people to execute that vision.

Delegation requires trust in your ability to hire, develop a vision, and build a scalable system.

Executing well in these three areas is how you create a highly functioning team. When there is a team, there can be a culture. With a culture you can have a shared vision. This results in working towards a common goal. Something to bond, connect with, and share.

Everybody has strengths. It is best to delegate tasks to those who have the strengths to execute them flawlessly.

Good luck and good selling!

Everybody’s a Critic — Be an Advocate

Being critical is advantageous in business. Critically assessing the numbers. Critiquing your competitors to find their weaknesses. A manager being critical of your performance during a review.

All of this is meant to expose weaknesses in your work and make you aware of where to improve.

Being a critic is useful in identifying a problem, not always in providing a solution.

Rarely do we need someone educating us about our weaknesses; chances are we already know. What we need are solutions.

Solutions are important. Solutions present business opportunities. Solutions help people, and provide value.

In determining the best course of action when solving a problem, the critic is sure to alert you of all the reasons something will fail.

It’s easy to be a critic. The critic will:

  1. Say: “we have never done that before”
  2. Say: “that won’t work”
  3. Argue about semantics—not the idea
  4. Create an environment where new ideas are discouraged
  5. Views a glass half empty

Be the opposite of a critic, be an advocate. Understand the great things occurring, and provide solutions to make them better. This will drive value to customers and help more people.

An advocate understands the project, the work, and the solution at hand. An advocate will:

  1. Work to make things better
  2. Provide support for the idea at hand
  3. Find a solution
  4. Encourage new ideas
  5. Understand the big picture

Being an advocate means you want to improve. Advocates are interested in solutions that move the project forward. Maybe they work, maybe they don’t. They have a willingness to try again.

Being a critic has a time and a place. “Critical thinking without hope is cynicism. Hope without critical thinking is naïveté.” – Maria Popova

But if you’re overly critical and never an advocate, can you provide the most value to your customers and colleagues?

Does you inner critic prevent you from being an advocate?

Good luck and good selling!