Another view: A visit from Adel & Link

Blog post by Christoph Muxfeldt, from Adel & Link

An interesting side effect when working abroad is that you are faced with your own cultural imprint. It’s the unwritten rules which make you realise the key social differences between neighbouring countries. For example, as a German, feeling an impulse to address new acquaintances by their last name and falling foul of the ‘stand on the right’ escalator politics on the London underground.

At Adel & Link we offer our clients local and international communications-led consultancy. However, while the PR industry can be defined (broadly speaking) in a universal sense when considering its core business objective, in order to really get to grips with market differences, spending some time abroad can be an invaluable experience.

So following a stint in the UK, what makes Germans tick in comparison to Britons? Geographically the two regions are separated only by a bit of Benelux, and a corner of France. However, when looking beyond more generic observations, considering empiric ethnic studies can be revealing. The Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede attempted just that in developing the so-called ‘cultural dimensions theory’ comparing Great Britain and Germany among other regions. While Germans scored highly on the ‘uncertainty avoidance’ index, they came out lower on the so-called ‘indulgence dimension’ in comparison to the UK. Where Brits reportedly have twice as much fun, Germans are able to control their emotions more carefully and are less impulsive. Germans value preparation and have a conservative, yet highly analytical viewpoint regarding the adaptation of new technologies and trends. They also adopt more ‘formal’ business cues in everyday office life. For example, you would rarely address a client or journalist by his or her first name – it’s always Herr Müller or Frau Meier.

In terms of digital penetration, research shows that six out of ten Britons are active on social media. Both in the business environment and in private they are much more communicative via these channels compared to Germans. According to the German IT association Bitkom 85% of German consumers would not share their personal opinions publicly and almost every second German would refrain from sharing pictures of themselves on social channels.

Naturally, numerous implications can be derived from these findings regarding building meaningful business relationships and developing influential international campaigns – and this visit certainly provided another perspective to take home. Ultimately the communications industry will continue to evolve and shape itself, not just to various global trends, but to the social mores and tastes of each region. It will be those who are able to sympathies, relate and converse with businesses and consumers at this deeper level who will be able to keep up with the pace of change and capitalise for themselves and their clients most effectively.

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