“Koreans share many characteristics with Germans”

    Business Spotlight 5/2018
    Straße in Seoul
    Von Paul Wheatley

    Susanne Woehrle worked for BMW for 25 years and now works in vocational trainingberufliche Aus- und Weiterbildungvocational training for the German chamber of commerceHandelskammerChamber of Commerce in Seoul. She points to the lifestyle, the excellent public transport system and the landscape as to why she loves life there so much.

    Susanne Woehrle


    “Language-...-wisein Bezug auf ...wise,” she says, “you can to get byzurechtkommenget by with English because lots of people speak it very well. And if not, I use a mixture of Korean, German and English.”

    Koreans are very focused, disciplined, ambitious and they work hard

    She sees many similarities between recent Korean history and German post-war life, noting the parallels to Germany’s Wirtschaftswunder. “Koreans are open-mindedaufgeschlossenopen-minded and curious — they share many characteristics with Germans,” she says. “They are very focused, disciplined, ambitious and they work hard.” The Korean “obsession with technology” astonishes her, though she says that technological advancementFortschrittadvancements haven’t always been matched in wider societal contexts, such as gender equality, including in the workplace. Woehrle has tips for business etiquette in South Korea:

    • “Some Koreans are very familiar with shaking hands, but others are very traditional and only to bowsich verbeugenbow.
    • “The first thing you do is exchange business cardVisitenkartebusiness cards. This is a major point: if you don’t have a business card, it looks very bad, but it’s also how you can identify the hierarchy.
    • “If you’re unsure how to act at a meeting, it’s better to to hesitatezögernhesitate a bit at the beginning — then Koreans will usually offer you a handshake, or they just offer you their business cards and then you bow.
    • “Remember, there is no personal contact such as huggingUmarmung(en)hugging. There is always some kind of distance.
    • “Keep to the hierarchical order if you want to achieve something.
    • “Even as a visitor, remember that personal relationships and networks are very important. For Koreans, it is very important who went to school [and university] with whom.
    • “If you visit a restaurant, the youngest and those lowest in the hierarchy sit furthest away from the middle of the table. This is the same in business meetings: in the middle are the most important people, and to the edges or outside the table you have the people who are lower in the hierarchy.”

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