New York working culture shocks #6: Everything is awesome!

Moving across the Atlantic from Hamburg (Germany) to New York City (USA) in June 2019 was an adventure all in itself. After living here for about 1 year and 4 months now, it feels right to look back and record some of my experiences. One of the biggest changes has been: Working in New York City.


Disclaimer
This is my personal experience relating to my specific company in New York. I am not trying to make any generalizations or criticize New York or even the US in general. Instead of thinking in the terms of better or worse, I like to think of things being different without putting any connotation to it.

Everything is awesome!

Another interesting difference from my German experience is an outwardly focus on the positive. In Germany there is an unofficial saying “Keine Kritik ist Lob genug.” (“No criticism is enough praise.”). Most people tend to dive in on what can be improved while forgetting to mention what is already good. In New York on the other hand, there is a big emphasis on what is going well and what you appreciate about a person or project. To me, this is definitely a lovely change of pace from my home country. You can gather a different set of confidence and faith in your abilities when you hear other people’s praise on a regular basis. It also can create a joy and feeling of accomplishment.

Simultaneously, it can be a slippery slope. If everything is always amazing, it becomes hard to acknowledge hardship and struggles or leave room for improvement. It can be hard to admit that you feel like you can’t keep up with the people around you, especially if everyone seems to have it all together and always seems upbeat. I’ve also found that some of my colleagues, but also clients and partners, have a hard time to utter constructive feedback and criticism, even when asked for it and especially with a superior around.

An attempt to understand the focus on the positive

From my understanding, Americans over the last couple of generations have been raised with a can-do-attitude. Especially the younger generation has been instilled with the notion that the world is at their feet and that they can do no wrong. They just need to reach out and grab it. Based on that, there is a strong will to encourage others and propagate one’s own positive achievements. I believe that there is a lot of beauty and good in that, but it ideally it should not come at the expense of facing reality. Personally, I wish to find a balance between the two extremes in Germany and the United States. As with so many things, the truth (and best approach) lies somewhere in the middle.


This is my personal experience relating to my specific company in New York. I am not trying to make any generalizations or criticize New York or even the US in general. Instead of thinking in the terms of better or worse, I like to think of things being different without putting any connotation to it.

I truly believe that it is a privilege to have the opportunity to dive into a culture and learn more about how things are done in another country then my own. No country or culture is perfect. And by experiencing others, we get to learn and analyze what we personally admire, cherish and want to incorporate into our own way of life. So if you stay open to it, there is so much potential for growth hidden right in front of you.

How about you?
Did you ever transfer to a different work culture? And if so, what work culture shocks did you encounter?

Cover picture was taken near Prospect Park in Brooklyn, New York (USA) in May 2020

Missing the beginning of this story?
New York working culture shocks #1: How did I get here

3 thoughts on “New York working culture shocks #6: Everything is awesome!

Add yours

  1. You must not have heard of the “Everything is Awesome!” song, huh? It’s from the Lego Movie haha…all the same, I’ve found Germans (and many European counterparts, honestly) to focus more on the realistic, sometimes negative aspect of life, which is more attuned to my personality, but even then, sometimes it’s way too pessimistic…while I don’t fully like how Americans are uber-positive and overly-expressive in how “awesome” everything is, I also think a bit of that positivity does allow them to appreciate life more, to have a purpose to enjoy and strive to achieve. A balance of both is important, really!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I completely agree, Rebecca. Growing up in Germany, I always struggled with the focus on the negative. But only focusing on the positive comes with other issues. I truly believe that (as with so many other things) it is all about balance.

      Liked by 3 people

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