Marked by organisation, planning and perfectionism, Germany’s business relations tend to be quite formal, reflecting the nation-wide values of order, privacy and punctuality. Their hierarchy is mainly vertical, governed by respect, therefore all business decisions are made by the leaders of the company.
- Primary Contact: In Germany, primary contacts tend to be quite formal and therefore, you should always announce your visit way ahead of time. It is recommended to get in touch by telephone in order to identify the right contact and further to confirm your interest by email. Being introduced by a third party beforehand goes a long way.
- Punctuality: In German culture, punctuality is extremely important and therefore it is advised that you arrive at a meeting 15 minutes early, in case your counterpart should do the same. In case of any unavoidable delay, you should always announce it ahead of time as Germans tend to value their time considerably.
- Greetings: Handshakes are the social norm when it comes to greetings. You should shake hands whenever meeting someone by giving them a short and firm handshake while maintaining eye contact for a brief period of time. An acceptable distance should be kept.
- Gifting: Small gifts may be appropriate whenever closing a deal or undertaking successful negotiations, however gifts are not a norm within Germany’s business etiquette.
- Dress-Code: German’s business dress code is conservative and formal. Men should wear a suit and a tie while women should also wear a suit.
- Business Cards: Business cards tend to be exchanged sometime at the beginning of a meeting. It is advised that you present a business card that is both translated in English as well as in German. You should include any higher degree or honours together with your name.
- Business Meetings: Small talk at the beginning of a meeting is not something Germans are very fond of as they prefer to dive in directly into business. Meetings usually shouldn’t last for more than one hour and they tend to stick to the scheduled times. It is imperative to be well-prepared and to have solid arguments because Germans expect a high level of accuracy, as well as informative and well-documented answers to their questions. As meetings tend to be serious and formal, you should avoid any form of irony and should not interrupt the participants. The business lunch culture is less widespread in Germany than in other European countries. Business lunches will be organised later on in the relationship, and will be an opportunity to go beyond purely professional issues.
In conclusion, Germany’s business culture in mainly defined by a strict protocol that the majority is rigorously following. Hence, you do not need a personal relationship in order to drive a healthy business relationship, as personal and professional lives are rigidly divided. However, it is essential to follow the established protocols and respect the formalities they impose.
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