Tennessee is home to hundreds of international companies worth billions of dollars. Chattanooga, the smallest of Tennessee’s four major cities, is the site of the only Volkswagen plant in the United States. VW is not the only German company in our area, but its arrival a half dozen years ago made cultural competence a high priority. German companies orient their executives to Southern culture, energizing Chattanooga’s globalization and investment in cross-cultural training.
Before I returned to the literary field as a writer, I had the incredible privilege of teaching English to business corporations in Germany that have a multinational clientele as well as employees from every nation. As an expatriate living outside of the United States of America, one of the first lessons I learned, was that the English Language is diverse. Pronunciation, spelling and the phonetic stress placed on certain words are different. In fact, the vocabulary may be the same, but it does not necessarily mean that the words have the same meaning.
Beate. That’s how I answer frequently asked question about my name especially since I‘ve relocated from Northern Germany to the South East of the United States more than one year ago. At this point of the conversation, people hear my German name and realize that I’m a part of the new diverse community of Chattanooga TN. But just to say Beate is only half of the truth. Probably 95 percent of the members of Western cultures have at least two names: a first and a last name. I do so, too. Beate is my first name. My last name is worse. But let’s talk about my last name later, along the lines of good things first.
I started to write this article while I was waiting to board a plane to Germany, my native country. My topic is helpfulness. I want to define the cultural differences around giving assistance between members of different nations. I want to share a few experiences here in the United States. They show a level of caring that’s really new to me.
My grandmother Hilda passed away when she was 95 years old. Her funeral was one of the most impressive events I‘ve ever joined. According to my feeling, all the citizens of her and my hometown had come to the cemetery. She was born and she died at the same small town in Northern Bavaria, Germany, which might have been one reason for her fame. She had never left her hometown longer than for a day trip. Another occasion could have been the way she decided to spend her time and live her life.
Members of the European culture usually have a settled way of life. In their eyes, Americans are admirable models of mobility. If in Germany, where I come from, a person becomes unemployed, he will look for a new job in his ancestral city first. Only when that is unsuccessful will reach out to other parts of Germany to look for a new career. Or not, it depends on lots of circumstances. People are ingrained in their communities. Visiting is easier than moving and nobody has to take an airplane to visit friends and family. To cross Germany by car even at its widest point will take you nine hours.
As a German, I never thought deeply about the things that American people value. I heard about their preference for comfortable footwear and that they love burgers. When I moved to Chattanooga, I realized it’s true. Lots of folks wear tennis-shoes, no matter if it is with jeans, slacks or skirts. And as an almost vegetarian, I learned to value juicy grilled beef. I’m sure I will miss that back in Germany. After two years living in the US, I notice more differences between the attitudes of American and German people than I had imagined