Posted: 3 Min ReadDiversity & Inclusion

Cultural diversity in the workplace – Made in Germany

What shapes us

I grew up in a small town called Bünzwangen, situated between Stuttgart and the Swabian Alps in southern Germany. I have mainly lived in Germany and, therefore, am influenced a lot by its culture.

Did you know that you can easily drive from north to south (or vice versa) within 13-14 hours? The longest extent from north to south as the crow flies is 876 km. Yet, the culture within the country differs. It might be due to different influences of the bordering countries, local customs, or even one’s own journey.

To me, culture is everything humans have created. It includes language, religion, economics, interaction with nature, art, music, literature, traditions, and customs. Culture shapes the coexistence between people and affects the way we interact with other people.

Therefore, I am delighted that I had the opportunity to live abroad in México and Wales to get to know the countries, their people, and their cultures. Living abroad was a fantastic opportunity to experience other people’s habits, traditions, values, and much more.

Are you sure you’re German?

I want to share my very personal experience I had during my time abroad. It shows how stereotypes of a country and culture get ahead of you.

As I mentioned, I spent one year abroad in México during my high school years. I went to school from Monday to Friday, engaged myself in the high school basketball team, and thought I was doing the same thing as all my other colleagues. After some weeks, my math teacher asked me if I was sure I was German in front of the class. I was pretty perplexed, to say the least, by his question and wanted to understand what made him think so. “You are fun and friendly. Germans are much more serious, aren’t they?”

Whereas my behavior in this example might be perceived as not fulfilling the typical German stereotype, I sure am 100% German. Why? Have a look at my next experience!

During my stay in México, I agreed to meet with my friends at 7 p.m. to go and have dinner at a restaurant. As we Germans are considered very punctual people, I was, of course, already waiting for them 15 minutes early. My host mum asked me what I was doing here. I said that I was waiting for my friends to pick me up. Suddenly, she burst out laughing, telling me that they would not be punctual. Indeed, she was totally right. Almost two hours later, they were ringing at my door when I thought they’d forgotten me and would never show up.

I learned from both experiences to be open to and get to know other cultures, learn about how we differentiate from each other, and the best way to interact and engage with each other. After all, the different perspectives and styles contribute toward a rich, valuable, and unique perspective that creates an innovation that could change the world.

How cultural diversity is shaping our workplace

Working in a global company means working with people from different cultures daily. As culture shapes the way we work and play, I think it's essential to get to know each other and learn from our cultural differences (or similarities).

That’s why I love the concept of our new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team’s Global Discovery Series. It allows us to get to know each other’s country and culture, sharing our own experiences in a very relaxed and interactive atmosphere. With both locals and ex-pats talking about their experiences in the respective country, we discover differences and similarities, and the fun never stops.

Hundreds of employees joined globally, engaged, and eager to learn. Of course, we asked people what comes to their minds when they hear Germany. We expected (and received) responses like "cars, technology, rules, beer." It is mesmerizing to see to what extent a thing or a characteristic can represent the whole country.

I also learned a lot from my co-hosts during the event. I think it is important not to be afraid to ask questions, be curious. Just like me, people are happy to share something related to their country and culture. All you need to do is ask.

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About the Author

Lena Komarek

People and Culture Manager

Lena is originally from Germany but has lived one year in Mexico and half a year in Wales. She discovered her passion for HR early during her dual study program. Lena is passionate about human behavior and is a certified coach.

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