Editor’s Note: The International Business Etiquette Series is designed to help students at the David Eccles School of Business navigate different cultures and countries as they conduct business around the globe.
Did you know that Germany is the largest economy in Europe? The official name is the Federal Republic of Germany. It has about 81 million people with a heavy influence of religion. The two religions are Roman Catholics and Protestants. With the differences in German attitudes and behavior compared to the Americans’, it is very important for students to understand the variation in culture. In this post, we will explore the business etiquette of Germany along with several aspects of the German culture.
Note: These etiquette tips are generalized, so be aware and sensitive when you’re doing business in Germany. Not all Germans are going to behave this way, so be adaptive and conscientious of your situation.
What should you wear if you do business in Germany?
- Men: Men should conservative attire that consist of dark suits, conservative ties and white shirts.
- Women: Women should wear a conservative, dark dress and a white blouse.
What are the “dos” and “don’ts” when addressing Germans?
- Do shake hands at the beginning and the end of a meeting (Germans still shake hands even if they have worked together for many years.)
- Arrive on time for every appointment. Being late is an insult to Germans.
- Do give gifts to business executives and send thank you letters.
- Do not surprise Germans with sudden changes in schedule, business transactions or other situations.
- Do not expect to be complimented or compliment. They assume that things are wells unless stated otherwise.
- Do not make jokes during business meetings. Germans do not like humor in business contexts because business is a very serious matter.
How should you communicate with Germans?
- German is the official language. It is important to know a couple of greetings.
- Be conscientious and know that there are several different dialects of German in different regions of Germany
- Germans like to talk about business deals over the phone. Although the business deals are not decided over the phone, expect to follow up and send faxes after the initial call.
- Make sure to address Germans using titles even though they may be extremely long. It is disrespectful if you don’t — especially in a letter or email.
- Do not ask Germans about their personal, private life. They are guarded and expected to mainly talk about business during normal hours. Do not call after hours unless told otherwise.
Other things to consider:
- Germans can consume a lot of beer in an evening, but it is not acceptable to be drunk in public.
- Germans like their personal space. Keep more than 6 inches farther apart than you would with a typical American.
- Germans are very individualistic and their decision-making process is very time-consuming.