Posted by Lindsay Geoffroy
Willkommen in Deutschland! (‘‘Welcome to Germany!“ in German)
Germany: a traditional country with a storied history known for magical tales, beer, and fairy tale castles. Once a group of smaller kingdom and principalities, Germany is now the fifth largest country in the European Union, with a population of over82 million (as of 2015). As a punctual, down-to-business people, you should really know the way of the country if you plan to do business with the Germans. Below, find some helpful tips to get you prepared.
- The national language of Germany is German – over 95% of the country’s population speaks this as their first language. Many Germans will also learn English as their second language.
- About two-thirds of the population is Christian (Catholic or Protestant).
- The corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement is very important to Germans, especially in regards to environmental issues. In 2000, the German government made a pledge to stop the use of nuclear power over the next 15 years.
- Proper planning and preparation in advance ensures that the facilities you will need for your meeting will be available for use.
- Germans value conservative, neat, understated clothing in the business setting.
- It is frowned upon to appear disheveled or sloppy.
- Businessmen: dark colored business suits, white shirts, solid color ties.
- Businesswomen: dark colored suits with white blouses or conservative dresses; do not wear flashy jewelry or heavy makeup.
Make or Break Meetings
- Germans are extremely punctual and their time is scheduled to the minute. Meeting start times should be respected and followed.
- Germans also value careful planning, rules, and laws.
- After the meeting is scheduled, there should be no changes made – Germans do not like surprises or sudden changes.
- Do not try to inject humor into business situations as Germans view business as a very serious matter.
- In Germany, business cards are not given out freely or in bulk; rather, the exchange of business cards is treated as a personal exchange of sensitive information and is done prudently.
- Business dinners are considered to be business affairs; as such, German business associates will not lapse into first-name basis
- Shake hands at the beginning of the dinner.
- Hold the fork in your left hand, the knife in your right hand. Keep both in your hand while eating – do not put them on the table or plate.
- Germans rarely eat with their hands! So no “finger foods.”
- Acceptable beverages: sparkling water, tea, coffee, wine, and (of course) beer
Giving and Getting Gifts
- Gift giving is not a common practice among business associates in Germany.
- Gifts, if given, should be small but of good quality.
- Acceptable gifts when invited to a German home: chocolate, wine, flowers, or a trinket from home.
- Acceptable gifts when invited to a business meeting: a company pen, office supplies, or liquor.
- Avoid giving: red roses, carnations, lilies, chrysanthemums, or 13 of anything.
- Gifts are generally opened upon receipt.
Down to Business
- When entering negotiations, be patient: Germans do not appreciate hostility or irritability in the business setting.
- Business is hierarchical. The final decision will be made by the higher levels in the company, not by subordinates.
- Germans appreciate formality and find it inappropriate if jokes or a “hard sell” approach are used in negotiations.
- A person’s word or handshake is considered their bond.
- The decision-making process is slow, but once a decision is made, it is final and will not be changed.
Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Germany, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!
Auf Wiedersehen! (“Goodbye” in German)