Germany is one of the most respected nations in the world for business so, if you plan on doing any business with the Germans, it is very important to know about their business customs and etiquettes in order to fit right in!
First of all – be on time! The Germans are famed for their punctuality and turning up to any meeting late will be met with disapproval. Once you have arrived, the next stage is the greeting. A short, firm handshake is the preferred greeting in Germany. A strong handshake shows confidence in your abilities, while the short duration shows respect to their personal space. Many like their personal space and so any other kind of physical contact, for example a pat on the shoulder, will probably not be appreciated. If speaking in German, be sure to use “Sie” (the formal way of saying ‘you’) to people in a higher position to you, or to those who are older than you to show respect. It is always best to start more formal and gradually move to the informal once you know where you stand. It is also important, as it is here, to use a person’s title and surname when addressing them, unless invited to call them by their first name.
Keep any small talk brief as many people in Germany prefer to keep their private lives separate from their work lives. Talking about salaries, whether it be your own or anyone else’s, is a taboo subject and should not be discussed.
Germans are very blunt, direct and say what they mean. When giving a presentation, or even just in conversation, although it may sometimes be considered rude in Britain, don’t be afraid to be straight to the point rather than trying to sugar-coat anything you wish to say. Don’t worry, if you are on the receiving end of this directness. Being direct saves time, and is certainly not considered impolite, or meant to cause you to feel uncomfortable.
If you need to schedule a meeting, do so well in advance. Germans like to stick to all meetings so are often booked up. Surprises are also not looked upon kindly – cancelling or amending appointments last minute will be sure to annoy!
On occasion, you may be invited to a business lunch or a meal/drinks after work. Be sure not to start until your host has wished everyone ‘Guten Appetit!’ and, if there is a toast, be sure to look each person in the eye while clinking glasses!
So there you have it – the basics of business etiquette in Germany. If you would like to know more about trading internationally or on how we can help you grow your business abroad, get in touch with at 01792 469990|E: firstname.lastname@example.org