The one-minute video, which was made by the Amsterdam branch of the state-funded Goethe Institute, aims to make communication with German business partners easier.
It features a German man and his non-German equivalent operating at cross-purposes in a variety of situations. At one point the German man is standing upright, eagerly wielding documents while his otherwise identical counterpart is in a slouched position dreaming about beer.
“We produced the films as a starting point of a discussion about cultural differences when doing business with Germans,” Christine Jansen of the Amsterdam branch of the Goethe Institute told The Local.
The video-makers attribute Germans’ tendency to avoid personal matters in favour of getting straight to the point to history. They say the historic division of Germany into several smaller states meant Germans were “constantly surrounded by enemies” and they “kept themselves to themselves.”
Jansen told The Local that the mention of Germany being surrounded by enemies was not a reference to the Second World War and that there had been some criticism of that part of the video.
“We are very happy about comments – positive and negative ones – because we would like to start a discussion,” she said.
The video says that Germany’s chaotic history means the country today values stability and structure and that Germans do not leave things to chance. “They feel more comfortable being formal,” the video claims.
Germany’s turbulent history, it explains, meant that Germans could never take stability for granted and preferred to keep to themselves. Centuries of “chaos, wars [and] depression” led to a greater focus on facts and arguments, which offered security.
The video advises people doing business with Germans to come well prepared and set out their business agenda clearly at the first meeting. If they do this, they will be rewarded by being taken “very seriously indeed.”
On the question of whether the videos actually reinforce stereotypes about Germans, Jansen said “This is possible but not intended. We used humor in the films to avoid this.”
The video is part of a series called ‘Typical German.’ Other videos include an explanation of the successful ‘Made in Germany’ brand and why in Germany ‘Time is Money.’
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