7

I am doing my internship at a German company (while being a student from the Netherlands) and my German skills are limited. On sunny days, I get blinded by the sun and want to lower the window blinds. I have an older coworker in the same office, whom I do not talk to much (he doesn't speak English and besides, there is quite an age gap). To be polite, I always ask him in German if its okay for him if I lower the window blinds. Note that he does not need the blinds himeself since he is not in front of the window.

Everytime he simply answers with 'Ja, ja', or yes, yes in English. I have been asking him this question for the past two weeks and he has never objected to it. Can I assume by now that he will be fine with it the next time I want the blinds to be lowered? Or should I keep on asking if he is okay with me doing so ('just' to be polite)?

6

Stop asking, start saying

In my experience, once you know someone is not likely going to object - you may state it as an assertion, not as a question.

I interpret it like it seems he is more disturbed by having to answer the question than someone lowering the blinds. What is a possibility then is just stating

I am lowering the blinds

And then lower the blinds. You could argue the statement some if you like

Ah, this sun is killing me, I am lowering the blinds

It leaves an option for him to disagree - but it is also one of those statements that doesn't require an answer and won't consume a calorie of thought from him unless he chooses to. It is one of those small tricks that can lubricate most situations. In my previous office I used to just mention I was going to the cafe to get coffees as a way to say people are free to join me for a coffee or request I take one back to them. It would be excessive if I were to ask everyone to take a moment of their time so I could communicate

"Would you like a coffee?"

Which then people would have to (or be rude) answer with a yes or a no individually. It is so much more efficient for both sender and receiver if I do:

"I am going by the cafe, if anyone wants anything"

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3

Getting blinded is really annoying and not really an option so you need to lower the window blinds. I don't can think of a regular reason to object to this question. And if an irregular reason is coming up he always can stop you lowering the blinds. I think it is not a big deal and you should not worry about it and ask him again.

I am from Germany myself and nobody in my office asks about lowering the window blinds. Sometimes people lower it because they need to test something in lower light. So it happened that I asked them if it was okay to uplift them again, when I felt like they were finished with their testing. Nobody here would ever stop someone from lowering the blinds because everyone knows that the person probably needs it for getting the work done.

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2

This can be very different from company to company, but I can tell you about my personal experience, because I am in a quite similar situation (I am actually German yet).

I am the only one, who is blinded by the sun in the afternoons, so I often lower the window blinds in the afternoons, and nobody ever has objected this ever. In opposite: My superior even gave me the advice to lower them, when the sun shines.

It can lead to difficulties, if you lower them all day or completely down to prevent any light from coming through the winow. But in order to maintain your work, it is in my opinion okay to decide whether and when to lower the window blinds by yourself. (Maybe to put your face or our screen to shadow)

Maybe this can make them consider your working style more self-organized, which can lead to a better impression lateron.

And, especially when he just answers "Jaja": This sounds like he's not very bothered by any of your actions with the window blinds at all. (Which you already implied, that he's not affected by the sun; as he's sitting behind a wall or at the other end of the room.)

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2

I am a German myself. So I can tell you in your case and depending on the tone of your coworker the "ja ja" means something like "yes, I don't really care". So it's okay for you to assume that you can lower the window blinds without asking again. If your coworker says "ja ja" in an annoyed tone it probably means that he is more annoyed with the repeated asking (but it is not meant to be rude (see the last paragraph).

The best course of action would be to tell him that you will lower the window blinds in the future without asking but leave him the option to object. Doing this he can still tell you if it is too dark or uncomfortable for him. I have the same problem in my office and get blinded every day because of the sun and some unfavorable placed windows in the opposite building. I told my coworkers two or three times that I cannot see anything because of the sun and that I had to lower the window blinders and they are OK with this.

So the the next time you'll lower the window blinds tell him this:

I'll lower the window blinds because the sun is blinding me. Just say anything if it's not okay for you.

In german:

Ich lasse wieder das Rollo runter, weil mich die Sonne blendet. Bitte sagen Sie Bescheid, wenn Sie etwas dagegen haben.


** You can find a good explanation about the phrase "ja ja" here (https://www.bedeutungonline.de/was-bedeutet-jaja-auf-deutsch-bedeutung-definition/). The site is in german so I will summarize the contents:

"ja ja" is a common expression in the German-speaking geographical area. If used as answer it means 'lack of interest', 'boredom' or 'indifference'. It is used as a reply to questions and requests felt as annoying or superfluous.

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0

I had a similar experience when I was abroad in Germany as a student intern, as well. Germans tend to prefer natural lighting and air conditions, i.e. open windows and sunlight rather than office lighting and AC. If your health is negatively affected, that ought to take priority over a general preference - regardless of whether or not it is customary.

However, I would personally say that you can safely assume that it’s fine to lower the blinds. I agree with other users here - there’s no need to keep asking, though you could announce that you’re lowering the blinds. In my case, I started by asking my desk neighbors if I could do so, and by the end of my internship, I just lowered them without any verbal notice. (I, too, was next to the window, and the sun would hit me through the glare on my computer about the same time everyday. No one said anything, either, so I think it was well understood.) Note that everyone in my office of adjusted AC/window settings without announcing them beforehand.

Therefore, I would make the following addendum to the other answers: what do your office mates do? If they have to ask or announce, then yes, it would be polite to follow this convention. But if they don’t, then neither should you! If it is truly a problem, someone will probably tell you.

I’d also recommend not looking angry (vague advice, but do stay aware of your facial expressions) so it doesn’t seem like you’re being passive-aggressive when you lower the blinds. This is a minute but nontrivial visual cue. If people don’t interpret your lack of asking as anger - and they probably won’t - then there really shouldn’t be a problem.

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