published Sunday, July 12th, 2009

Workshop bridges gap to German culture

by Lauren Gregory
Audio clip

Christian Hoferle


What: “The German Way,” a cultural sensitivity seminar targeted for educators and members of the business community

When: July 28, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce

How much: Free for teachers from Cleveland and Bradley County school systems; $59 for other participants

For more information: Visit

CLEVELAND, Tenn. —Anticipating a clash between molasses-paced Southern hospitality and hardened German efficiency when two large German corporations land here, Ocoee Regional Multicultural Services is working to build a bridge between the two cultures.

“Germans are blunt. They’re in your face, and they don’t sugar-coat things,” explained Christian Höferle, a German-born consultant who has lived in Cleveland for five years. “Some locals here will find them rude or very demanding, but it’s just that the mentalities are very different.”

Looking ahead to the construction of a Wacker Chemical Corp. plant in Bradley County in late 2010 and the opening of Chattanooga’s new Volkswagen plant in 2011, Mr. Höferle said it’s not too early to start heading off potential misunderstandings with the German families those businesses will bring to the Tennessee Valley.

He is partnering with Ocoee Regional Multicultural Services’ Mosaic Center and the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce to offer language and cultural sensitivity classes for the business and education communities.

He taught a “crash course” in the language in June, to the delight of participants such as Douglas Berry, vice president of economic development for the Chamber.

“The Germans have taken the time to learn English so they can communicate with us and do business with us, so I think it’s just a reciprocal courtesy,” Mr. Berry said. “Everyone’s going to be struggling with their language skills, and if we’re struggling, trying to work on our German, maybe that will make (the newcomers) feel more comfortable.”

Mr. Berry also plans to attend The German Way, a one-day seminar Mr. Höferle will conduct July 28.

The idea is to keep dialogue about diversity going in the Cleveland area, said Gary Ray, vice president of administration at Lee University and board chairman for Ocoee Regional Multicultural Services.

“We want to promote the importance of working together and building community through unity,” Dr. Ray said, noting that this next seminar certainly won’t be the last before the German businesses arrive.

“We’ve got a whole list of projects that we believe can prepare educators and business people for the immersion of the German families of Volkswagen and Wacker,” he said.

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