Giesecke & Devrient GmbH, Munich
Konrad Spies, Projektmanager

"In Hungary we are working with a German partner company on the construction of complex machines. This task poses a technological as well as organizational challenge to our partner company and their Hungarian staff.

Germans with rules, instructions to be kept and deadlines in mind, but unable to speak a word of Hungarian meet their Hungarian colleagues. Since Hungary is only seven car hours or one flight hour from the south of Germany, you would expect Hungarians to have a similar mindset, wouldn't you?

You can be in for a big surprise, especially as most Germans only know Hungary from a holiday on the Balaton or in Budapest. Germans have the cliché of Hungary involving paprika, the Tokajer and the romantically gallant and polite Hungarian people with their distinctive Ä-sounds and rolling 'R's.

You would think that a factory could easily be set up in Hungary as long as it is clearly structured and well organized. That is generally the case, but it is not the whole truth since processes cannot function well unless the people involved in it are properly considered.

How can you win the positive cooperation of Hungarians, who…

  • …understand German or English, but only on a limited level
  • …do not necessarily work steadily towards a result within their time frame, but prefer to lay down a final spurt into to keep to deadlines
  • …prefer to work creatively towards finding a solution, rather than having to keep to strict rules
  • …have good ideas, but do not assert these as strongly as German colleagues might
  • …are patriots in the sense of being proud of their culture, history and language, something which unprepared Germans may find hard to comprehend
  • …who normally address each other by their first names, are very familiar and casual in relating to each other and greatly value politeness?

For this purpose, two German employees who were to stay in Hungary for a longer time period attended a one-day intercultural training course by Ms Gyöngyi Varga. They were also given a detailed handout accompanying the course and for further reading at home.

Following an introduction into the concept of intercultural communication illustrated with meaningful examples, there followed an outline of Hungarian culture, history and language.

After that we looked at the picture the Germans have of the Hungarians and vice versa, based on scientific surveys. The above mentioned differences were spoken about and solutions for a successful way of relating were presented.

The event was successful and fun. Of course an exhaustive treatment of the topic is not possible in the space of a one-day seminar, but it was a good introduction to the theme and the core aspects were conveyed.

Due to her Hungarian roots combined with her long-term living experience in Germany, Ms Varga is in an excellent position to be an authentic bridge gapping both cultures. She has both expert knowledge and didactic skills as well as a distinctive understanding of the language and culture of both nations.

Therefore an intercultural bilingual training course for the German and Hungarian colleagues to take part in together under Ms Varga’s leadership is at present being developed.

In my opinion, the rather more informal introduction to the Hungarian culture and the problematic of intercultural communication should best be followed up with a workshop for all involved to attend together. In the case of suddenly arising issues, an accompanying coaching would be imaginable. And Ms Varga is always available for help and advice, also after the seminar.

The present situation: the collaboration with the Hungarian colleagues is good and successful, although the above described differences can still be seen on a daily basis and need to be handled appropriately."

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