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Business Etiquettes in Germany



Germans believe that maintaining clear lines of demarcation between people, places, and things is the surest way to lead a structured and ordered life. Work and personal lives are rigidly divided. There is a proper time for every activity. When the business day ends, you are expected to leave the office. If you must remain after normal closing, it indicates that you did not plan your day properly.

Germans do not need a personal relationship in order to do business. They will be interested in your academic credentials and the amount of time your company has been in business. Germans display great deference to people in authority, so it is imperative that they understand your level relative to their own.

Germans do not have an open-door policy. People often work with their office door closed. Knock and wait to be invited in before entering.

German communication is formal. Following the established protocol is critical to building and maintaining business relationships. As a group, Germans are suspicious of hyperbole, promises that sound too good to be true, or displays of emotion.

Germans will be direct to the point of bluntness. Expect a great deal of written communication, both to back up decisions and to maintain a record of decisions and discussions.

Business Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments are mandatory and should be made 1 to 2 weeks in advance.
  • Letters should be addressed to the top person in the functional area, including the person's name as well as their proper business title.
  • If you write to schedule an appointment, the letter should be written in German.
  • Punctuality is taken extremely seriously. If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation. It is extremely rude to cancel a meeting at the last minute and it could jeopardize your business relationship.
  • Meetings are generally formal.
  • Initial meetings are used to get to know each other. They allow your German colleagues to determine if you are trustworthy.
  • Meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times.
  • Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
  • Although English may be spoken, it is a good idea to hire an interpreter so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
  • At the end of a meeting, some Germans signal their approval by rapping their knuckles on the tabletop.

There is a strict protocol to follow when entering a room:

  • The eldest or highest ranking person enters the room first.
  • Men enter before women, if their age and status are roughly equivalent.

Business Negotiation

  • Do not sit until invited and told where to sit. There is a rigid protocol to be followed.
  • Meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times.
  • Treat the process with the formality that it deserves.
  • Germany is heavily regulated and extremely bureaucratic.
  • Germans prefer to get down to business and only engage in the briefest of small talk. They will be interested in your credentials.
  • Make sure your printed material is available in both English and German.
  • Contracts are strictly followed.
  • You must be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol. Germans are detail- oriented and want to understand every innuendo before coming to an agreement.
  • Business is hierarchical. Decision-making is held at the top of the company.
  • Final decisions are translated into rigorous, comprehensive action steps that you can expect will be carried out to the letter.
  • Avoid confrontational behaviour or high- pressure tactics. It can be counterproductive.
  • Once a decision is made, it will not be changed.

Dressing Etiquette

  • Business dress is understated, formal and conservative.
  • Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
  • Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
  • Do not wear ostentatious jewellery or accessories.




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