Cases of multicultural conflicts



Nr Situation Title Conflict Comment
1 American-German Alcohol at lunch in the US At a business lunch in a club-house at the occasion of a high-level first exploration of common business opportunities, the only German asked for a glass of wine. The Americans where shocked. The German thought, that for a fine meal, a white wine would be the most appropriate drink. The Americans do not have alcohol for lunch, only for dinner or later. Asking for alcohol during business hours is rude.
2 French-German Alcohol at lunch in France At a fine lunch on a very hot day, a German ordered a Coke. Shock for the French who had all ordered wine. From a French side, ordering a drink that does not go with the quality of the meal showed very bad taste.
3 American-German Open criticism out of own responsibility A high-ranking US manager noticed that expensive individual hotel rooms had been reserved for a meeting, but not used. He made an open comment in this meeting to the German manager responsible for this meeting. The Germans accused the US manager of not being a team player and of being rude. In an US company, open critic is allowed. In a German company, it is seen rude that a difference between two persons is discussed in the front of the others who are not concerned. Second, a manager is responsible for his budget, but free how to spend it. As long as he respects the budget, he can make expenses that are seem useless to others.
4 French-German Christmas habits The French part of the family happily decorates the Christmas tree weeks before Christmas and enlights the candles. The German part hates this: This is supposed to happen in the Christmas night for the first time. Holidays have habits, which includes the preparation and the build-up of emotions before. Simpling taking over the habit does not give you the same emotional thrill that you have by remembering your past experience in the preparation. But this preparation also needs the preparations in your personal environment, which might not be existing elsewhere.
5 All situations Foreign food A visitor is offered food that he things is absolutely disgusting. But his hosts offer him more of what they think "is the best of the best". Very common. Some advise: Not sharing some type for food because of religion or conviction is acceptable most of the times. Tasting small quantities shows respect. Very important and helpful is to join the full daily circle of foreign food customs (breakfast / lunch / dinner) including the drinks: The combination of light & heavy, drinks, spices and food helps to stabilize digestion. Having food together is one of the oldest form of socializing - it remains one of the most important ones!
6 French-German Company Cars A French mother company thinks that large cars are far beyond need as company cars for their German sales force. Value and type of company cars are important for the image of the sales representative in Germany, Mercedes C-class or BMW 3-series is not uncommon. In France, vehicles above the 5CV category (Peugeot 306/Renault Megane) are less common and carry a tax penalty.
7 French-German French business lunches: length A German manager tries to shorten or avoid a lunch with his French colleagues, because "he needs the time for business discussions". The meeting ends without the impact he had hoped for. In France, lunch is not the end of a discussion, but part of the meeting. It allows for compromise and negotiation after having stated the facts. By avoiding the lunch, the negotiation phase never happened.
8 French-German French business lunches: cost German managers criticize the cost of the business lunch allowance of their French employees, more than double than the allowance in Germany. See French business lunch: length. The effort put into the lunch shows the seriousness that the partner puts into the negotiation effort. Avoiding the lunch or penny-pinching might kill the negotiation.
11 All situations Expensive Hotel bookings Visitors stay in hotels far more expensive than their local counterparts are used to or allowed for. Visitors are often not familiar with the local market, travel agencies often book only well-known hotels. It is a better idea to have the local people make the reservation, this avoids this conflict almost entirely.


Upd. 20 nov. 2006