"A different language is a different vision of life" (Federico Fellini))

Welcome to COM, the absolutely unofficial SUSE “Cultural Onboarding Maxfeld” blog

(mfe) This blog is the result of a great hackweek project at SUSE, but still : This is not in any way affiliated with SUSE. It’s the unofficial Cultural Onboarding Maxfeld blog from some interculturally interested SUSE employees in Nürnberg, Maxfeldstraße, the headquarter of Germany’s greatest Open Source company.

During Hackweek (some private innovation time off SUSE grants its employees in development twice a year) some of us started this blog, and we got an amazing feedback: On a temporary wordpress site more than fifteen people contributed and wrote 20 blog items on the first days. Also a big thanks to the SUSE HR ladies who helped with this!

We are currently refining the strategy, thinking of and discussing about categories and place to put this, but we invite all of you to contribute. There is an Etherpad where we collect ideas, a mailing list will be set up for both direct help for newcomers with questions and to spot or solve funny situations that might make great blog posts.

Thus remember the SUSE dogmas: “Have a lot of fun!” and “Whoever does something, is right.” – contribute!

Featured post

Expat Blog Interview March: Katharina, From Munich To Chicago

Believe it or not, German/European ways of communicating are so different from the US way… read this expat’s blog.

The Wurst: Was in New York als typisch Deutsch vermarktet wird – Moment: New York

When you think you know what is typical German, go to New York and start learning again… indoor Beergardens and Döner at the butcher shop.

What? You haven’t visited a Biergarten yet?

Biergarten-Restaurant-Restauration-Kopernikus-01You haven’t visited a biergarten yet? Then you haven’t integrated into German society properly yet.

If it’s summer and it’s warm, sunny and early in the evening, then you really ought to consider visiting a biergarten with some of your friends. If you don’t like beer, don’t worry they serve other drinks as well, you know.

Here are some of Nürnberg’s most popular biergartens:

  • Restauration Kopernikus – Restaurant & Biergarten
    Hintere Insel Schütt 34, 90403 Nürnberg
  • KulturGarten
    Königstraße 93, 90402 Nürnberg
  • Wiesn Beer Garden
    Johann-Soergel-Weg, 90482 Nürnberg
    (In the middle of Wöhrder Wiese)
  • Hexenhäusle
    Vestnertorgraben 4, 90408 Nürnberg
  • Elke’s Bierstadl
    Maxpl. 35, 90403 Nürnberg
  • Café Bar Wanderer
    Beim Tiergärtnertor 6, 90403 Nürnberg
  • Balkon Nürnberg
    Königstor 2, 90402 Nürnberg
  • Marientorzwinger
    Lorenzer Str. 33, 90402 Nürnberg
  • Palais Schaumburg Gaststätte
    Kernstraße 46, 90429 Nürnberg
  • Palmengarten
    Untere Kanalstraße 4, 90429 Nürnberg
  • Lederer Kulturbrauerei
    Sielstraße 12, 90429 Nürnberg
  • DESI
    Brückenstraße 23, 90419 Nürnberg
  • Z-Bau – Biergarten
    Frankenstraße 200, 90461 Nürnberg
  • Landbierparadies
    Sterzinger Str. 4, 90461 Nürnberg

Let us know where you went and which one you liked the most.

Staring at people – a German tradition?

(mfe) This is my third post about the German stare, (Here are the other two: [1] and [2]), but I think it makes sense to add another topic to that discussion, just because it might get you into trouble in some countries. In the other blogs, I alread explained why the “German Stare” is not at all an offensive, and especially not intrusive action.

Metoo and the stare

But in the wake of the #Metoo debate, especially American companies are starting to introduce policies that are far from European or other countries’ daily experience. According to the Independent, Netflix has joined a variety of companies in the USA that define rules for looking at somebody. For most Germans, even calling this a “Harassment Training” might be difficult to understand, since Europeans usually believe it is a courtesy, good manner and polite to keep full eye contact with somebody as long as you are talking to him or her. In most European streets or public transport it is considered “strange behaviour” if somebody evades the eye contact. Some of my rural Bavarian friends would even go so far to call it “junkie behaviour”, because they think drug addicts do not want to make eyes meet.

On the contrary, if you come from a cultural background that for example prohibits women to look into the eyes or face of men, Germans might consider you as weak, insecure, introvert or even kind of autistic. But that may cause cultural misunderstandings in other countries, and it’s often hard to anticipate them: Complaints may range from the aforementioned harrassment to disobedience.

Don’t look at your manager!

It gets worse if you are applying for a job, because cultural backgrounds make people connect different things with different behaviour: German advice for application contact tells applicants to look into the eyes of the managers, but warns them at the same time to not look directly into the eyes of a superior manager longer than a short glance when in the Asian world:

“While direct, open eye contact symbolizes attentiveness in Europe, in some countries it will be interpreted as challenging or dominant. In China or Japan it is seen as a lack of respect, whereas in Egypt it is a symbol of respect, albeit only between men.” [3]

Awareness matters

There is even a section on this in Wikipedia‘s article on Eye contact (a really good read),  and Vivian Giang of Business Insider gives good hints. Personally, I think they take the right spin, and that is why I wrote this blog post: What matters is the awareness of the topic and the cultural differences that come with it. Just like Vivian writes:

But how do you know how much eye contact is too little or too much? And where do you actually look when you’re looking someone in the eye? According to Sayler, the appropriate amount of eye contact should be “a series of long glances instead of intense stares.

Achtung! Schaufele!


If you’re located in Nuremberg, you’re in the Bayern region (Bavaria), but you are also in Franconia, which is like a county in Bavaria. The Franconians, which is what they are known as, are very proud people, who have the greatest variety of beers than any other area in Germany and enjoy many pork dishes, especially their prided Schweine-Schaufele.

Schaufele (as pictured above) is a Franconian speciality consisting of a large roasted shoulder of pork on a bone with a unique crispy crackling. It usually is served with Kloß mit Soß (potato dumplings with gravy) and maybe some Rotkohl (red cabbage) or Salat (salad). It is delicious, but also a lot of meat to eat, so you’ll need a big appetite. I was told that a good quality Schaufele would be cooked through evenly such that the crackling is crispy and that the meat comes away from the bone easily without sticking.

Many Franconians drive or cycle into the countryside on a Sunday and order a Schaufele from a restaurant somewhere. Sundays might be the most popular day of the week to have a Schaufele, but usually you can order them any day.

Guten Appetit!

Brexit: British and working in Germany

3500If you’re British (that means you’re either English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish or anyone from one of the many British Islands), but now living and working in Germany, you’re probably quite worried about your future after Brexit.

Brexit, which is due to happen on 29th March 2019, is when the United Kingdom will officially leave the European Union. After this date any British citizen would need to apply for a visa and a work permit in order to work in Germany or in any other EU country.

Up until now it has been uncertain what would happen to British nationals, who were living and working abroad. Very fortunately Germany has agreed, regardless of the outcome of Brexit, to allow British nationals to continue living and working in Germany indefinitely without the need of a visa, provided that they are in a job, paying taxes and registered to live here before the 29th March 2019. Any time after this date would be no longer applicable. These Britons would have a special new status. They would retain their British rights, but would also be allowed to continue working and living in Germany as residents and also apply for other jobs, provided that these other jobs were in Germany and in no other EU state. Of course, if they wanted to return to the UK, this would be also okay, but they would need to apply for resettlement through the British Embassy.

If you happen to be living and working here for 8 or more years, then you are entitled to apply for German citizenship. First you would need to take and pass a German language test (B1 level) and a naturalisation test (a.k.a. der Einbürgerungstest), before applying to the Einwohnermeldeamt.  If you are British and you happen to pass the tests before 29th March 2019, then you will have the privilege of becoming a dual-citizen (German-British), provided that you application is submitted before Brexit. Afterwards, you would only be entitled to full German citizenship. All the same, it is certianly worth considering. With German citizenship, you are automatically an EU citizen (again), which allows you to freely cross borders into other EU countries, apply for jobs anywhere in the EU and enjoy all the free EU benefits that there are.

You might also be interested in reading this article from The Guardian newspaper:

How come nobody British knows about “Dinner for One”?



Dinner for One is a classic British comedy made for television in 1963 starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden. What is so interesting about this play is that it was broadcast on German, Austrian and Swiss television, but never on British television.

Dinner for One (a.k.a. Der 90. Geburtstag) is a sketch depicting the 90th birthday celebration of an aristocrat named Miss Sophie, who has outlived her four closest friends: Mr Pomeroy, Mr Winterbottom, Sir Toby and Admiral von Schneider. Since she can’t bare to celebrate her birthday without them, she insists that her butler, known as James, should re-enact them each in character at the table. As the evening continues, James becomes more and more inebriated after toasting Miss Sophie as each character between each course of the meal.

The Germans are so fanatic about this play that it is shown on New Year’s Eve every year as tradition. Most British people have never seen this before, but it certainly is worth watching at least once.

If you are interested in seeing the original recording of the sketch, here is a YouTube link:

“Quite” tricky… British or American English?

(mfe) “The trickiest Word in American” according to MacMillan Dictionary is quite awesome. In fact, it’s quite. Quite surprising, isn’t it? While American English uses it to stress something as more positive than average, British English has it that adding “quite” to an adjective kind of downgrades its value.

A concert “quite good” in American English was great, better than expected, but in British English that would mean it was less convincing. Mac Millan’s website says:

“If your American boss says your work is quite good, should you be pleased or a little concerned? In British English quite good only means pretty good or fairly good, but in American English it’s much more positive. Quite good means very good, so you can give yourself a pat on the back.

And one last piece of advice for any American guys who are planning a first date with an English girl. Don’t be like one of my American friends and tell her you think she is quite pretty. He was lucky to get a second date.”

Cambridge dictionary defines the UK “quite” as: “a little or a lot but not completely”, whereas the US variant is defined as: “to a large degree”. To make it even harder, “quite” can also mean “completely” in both variants of English, like in “quite different”.

This problem is not limited to English, there’s misunderstandings like that in many varieties across languages. Greek people are said to nod their head upwards, meaning “no!”, whereas Bulgarians shake it to express confirmation. Do you know similar cases?

Sneezing and other things…

‘The Germans sneeze loudly’: refugees on their adopted homelands – video | World news | The Guardian

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