May 19, 2015 by helenwaldron
“Germans and social media: it looks like a contradiction in terms at first, but they’ve reengineered it with Xing and I imagine it works for them.”
Xing, of course, is the German version of LinkedIn, a social media platform for professional networking in German.
Deborah had decided to open a Xing account and had already approached several local business people (and had sometimes been rebuffed).
“Look at this one,” she read aloud to him, with tears in her eyes.
““My very dear Ms Jones,
Thank you so much for your offer to network with me. As we all know, having important contacts is so vital a part of our working life nowadays. However, please also understand me when I inform you that I am only able to accept contacts who will further my own professional career and therefore I am unable to accept your kind offer.””
“Yeah, you don’t expect that,” said Speakeasy sympathetically.
“Fancy bothering to write it! Why didn’t he just ignore my contact request if he thought I was that far beneath him? Why do people here have to be so hurtful?”
“No, he’s not being hurtful, Deborah. People here say exactly what they mean. That’s why networking for networking’s sake sits uncomfortably on them. They don’t go “wow!”, “great!”, “fantastic!” to everything. Look, he took the trouble to write to you. He explained why he wasn’t accepting your offer. He went out of his way to be polite (no that’s not irony – that’s an extra delicate tone appropriate for an English speaker). All in all, he definitely meant well.”
German networking was certainly a difficult concept, especially in Hamburg where the people took a strange pride in being very hard to befriend. It might take you decades to get to know me, but once you’re my friend, then you’re my friend for life, they say.
“And is it true?” asked Deborah.
“I don’t know,” laughed Speakeasy. “I’m not dead yet.
“Sometimes I think some of my Xing contacts are, though. I’ve got one contact who posts an incredibly pompous quotation from classical literature once a day and several of his contacts then politely press the “like” button, but in Xing it says “Mr Soandso thinks your contribution is interesting”.
“A few set up groups for their own advertising purposes and they post their products and services daily with absolutely Teutonic relentlessness. They don’t do feelings and inner kittens and they haven’t really got the hang of marketing, if you ask me.
“Most don’t do anything. Niet, rien, nichts, nada. They’re far too aware that anything they publish on the internet will most likely be stored and used against them at a later date. Data protection and all that.”
“Well they’re not wrong there,” considered Deborah.
“The best thing about Xing is that we live in a town and they organize events where you can go in person and meet people face to face. They invite you via Xing, but I’m not really sure if this counts as social media. It’s more just diary management.
“Socialising is hard in a foreign culture. That’s why our students find small talk in English the hardest area to master.
“And yes,” he added, as Deborah scrolled away the message she no longer perceived as offensive and returned to her profile on her smartphone.
“I do sometimes wonder if they’re doing it on purpose and enjoying themselves when they don’t accept me with open arms.
“On Xing,” he added hastily. “Not face to face.”
Nobody could deny that face to face Speakeasy possessed superior schmoozing skills.
“I sometimes think they’re getting their own back on us for being Speakers of The World’s Most Dominant Business Language.”
“You mean they want to learn English for their jobs but they hate what they think English is doing to their own language.”
“Exactly. They think we’re corrupted their language, but actually they’ve taken over English words and phrases and used them so differently, that we can’t understand them either.
“You know I once posted “Happy Christmas!” (in English) to a translation group I am a member of – nothing else, just those two English words. And the owner of the group took the trouble – like your one – to write back and thank me, but explain that he had deleted my post because the language of the group was German and could I please not use foreign languages as not everyone in the group would be able to understand.”
“”Happy Christmas”? A group of translators are going to be threatened by somebody posting “Happy Christmas” in English?” asked Deborah incredulously.
Speakeasy nodded. “I felt such a colonialist.”