Improving communication between China and Germany

Weinheim. February 10, 2012. The Chinese - their nickname for Germans is "people with long noses", they think the word "no" is impolite and they admire German precision. 27-year-old Xiaojuan Li from Shanghai is currently spending one year as a trainee with the Freudenberg Group in Weinheim. The managers at Freudenberg are very aware of the importance and benefits for the company that international exchange among associates brings, and support this idea. They know that a working environment characterized by cultural diversity, where associates from all over the world contribute their own particular skills to their teams and thereby maximize competence, enriches the corporate culture. Trainee Xiaojuan Li talks about her experience.

"I've learnt so much about the way Germans work and about German culture during the last year," says 27-year-old Xiaojuan Li, who started at the Finance and Controlling department of the Freudenberg Group's Corporate Service Center in Shanghai after studying business management. Exciting tasks and the opportunity to work independently: That is what Li values about working in Germany. "And I've built up a network of colleagues. When I return home in March I want to use my experience here to further improve communication between Germany and China." She worked in five different areas during the course of her year in Germany. "This placement has been mutually beneficial, Ms. Li has made professional contacts and we are gaining a competent contact person in China who is also aware of our perspective," says Matthias Tschermak von Seysenegg, her mentor during her time at Group Controlling. "In Germany, work is very detailed and involves lots of coordination", Li comments. "In China, on the other hand, the priority is to get a project finished quickly." That is why she first had to get used to processes that took more time. "For the Freudenberg Group, intercultural teams are highly valued and an important part of our corporate culture", says HR officer Alexa Faber.

Open mind about other cultures
Li goes on to describe the cultural differences, which start with names. Her first name "Xiaojuan" means "pretty stream". In China, there are no customary first names for children, parents create their own. The most important difference in communication with Germans is avoiding the word "no". "German colleagues often say ‘no'. But in China, that's considered impolite. Instead, a Chinese person would say something like ‘I have another idea'", Li explains. And in China, successful business depends on good personal relations; deals are often agreed round the table after a meal. Another thing that Li has noticed is that her colleagues keep an open mind about other cultures. "This year has been so enriching and now I feel I'm able to take on more tasks and responsibilities in Shanghai", Li adds.