Ready for business?
Let me ask you a simple question to test your general knowledge. What do you get if you combine Portugal, Ghana, the US, Algeria, France, Brazil and Argentina?
Now, those of you who haven't stopped thinking about football yet will no doubt say, "a World Cup victory for Germany". You are on the right track, but that wasn't exactly what I meant. Instead, the answer I wanted was €212 billion.
That, you see, was the value of German exports purchased in 2013 by those seven World Cup opponents — 19 per cent of all German exports (€1,094 billion). Indeed, France was the top destination for German products and services, with the US in second place. The next highest-ranking country was Brazil in 20th place.
The total amount that Germany imported from these countries in 2013 was just €131 billion or 15 per cent of German imports. In other words, Germany had a huge trade surplus with these seven countries combined, as indeed it has in its overall trade. (Interestingly, Ghana, as well as being the only country that Germany didn't defeat in the World Cup, is also the only one with whom German has a trade deficit, importing more than it exports.)
An enormous number of German jobs depend on the purchasing decisions of companies and consumers in the seven countries that Germany played in Brazil. One might think that German exports could be endangered by the defeats Germany inflicted. But the country's image at the World Cup — helped by the way the players and fans conducted themselves — was very positive. Even the notorious British gutter press said that is it now OK to love Germans.
So it was a great pity that some of the German players spoilt this image with their idiotic gaucho dance during the celebrations in Berlin last week. This was a perfect example of the danger of using humour internationally and of the way that good reputations (and relations) can be spoiled by a moment's insensitivity.
The German football association, while claiming no disrepect was meant, said it was sorry if the dance was "misunderstood by some people".
One can only hope that German businesses show more sensitivity in their international dealings. To do so, they could do a lot worse than reading an excellent new book called Intercultural Readiness: Four competences for working across cultures. The four key areas discussed in the book are intercultural sensitivity, intercultural communication, building commitment and managing uncertainty.
One can only assume that the book — or even a summary of its conclusions – wasn't circulated to Germany's footballers before their celebrations. Shame.
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