Context Information

Because a „yes“ in the German context involves a very high degree of binding character, when entering into an agreement Germans will request a corresponding amount of background information. This serves two purposes. First, it allows them to determine whether the agreement could have negative effects for them, their work or their team.

Second, and more importantly, they want to fulfill their part of the agreement to the best of their ability. And because little to no followup is expected to take place during the time-span of the agreement, the better they understand the overall context, all the more competently they can fulfill their part.


Because followup is frequent, and because agreements can increase and decrease in priority, they can be entered into quickly without their overall context having been discussed in detail. The parties of an agreement are in constant communication with each other. Full context information need not be communicated all at once, during the very first conversation.

German perception
Germans are surprised that Americans would ask them to enter into an agreement without having first provided the contextual information necessary to make a decision. They then experience Americans who become impatient with their questions. Depending on the sensitivity of the agreement, a German might suspect that an attempt is being made to gain their „yes“ without them fully knowing or understanding the potential effects. A German might become careful, sceptical, even wary.

American perception
A German colleague requesting what can appear to be too much background information can give the impression of being overly conscientious, risk-averse, even mistrustful. An American would wonder: „If we have an agreement, why does my German colleague need so much information up front. Let‘s get started. We‘ll be in touch as we proceed.“

Advice to Germans
Your American colleagues expect a higher level of communication during the time span of an agreement. Therefore, they need not know the whole story up front. Provide what they need in order to get started. If and when they require additional information, you‘ll hear from them. Be prepared to communicate on a more frequent basis. Now, if an American provides you with too little context information in order for you to make a decision, kindly indicate this. Tell them that you simply are conscientious, that you want to get it right the first time.

Advice to Americans
Go into detail with your German colleague about the broader context of the agreement. Don‘t wait for the questions to come. Volunteer the information. And don‘t be surprised when German colleagues go into great detail with you. They‘re neither long-winded nor pedantic. They simply want you to be fully informed so that you can make the proper decision, and if you agree, to execute to the best of your ability.

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