One of the first characteristics which people think of when they think of Germans is punctuality.
Well, they’re not wrong… mostly.
Punctuality is actually quite an integral part of German culture and there are several reasons why:
- Germany has a relatively low power distance. A low power distance means that Germans generally view each other as equals. By being punctual Germans show each other that they value another person’s time just as much their own. If you show up late you are letting people know that their time is less valuable than your own.
- Germans like to plan. By being punctual, Germans are able to plan out their days very accurately. If you show up late to a meeting you may be forcing someone to push back their other meetings or reschedule appointments – this is a sure way to lose a friend or even get fired from your job!
- Germany is among the uncertainty avoidant countries. This simply means that Germans try to avoid unknown situations. If you can’t be trusted with something as simple as being on time, you will not be trusted with more important issues – so if you’re looking for a promotion at work, make sure you’re always on time!
Does this mean that every German is always on time? Of course not, but generally speaking they will be fairly punctual. Although there is one exception…
There’s a running joke that all Germans are on time, except for the Deutsche Bahn (DB) – the largest German railway operator. Although the railway has made large efforts to increase their punctuality, don’t expect your train to be on time. Particularly in winter trains can be delayed for up to a few hours!
Overall, the myth that Germans are punctual is:
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