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Germany's Business Etiquette: What You Need To Know

September 13, 2021
To this day, Germany remains one of the wealthiest and most prosperous countries in the world. Part of that is their stable economy and the rising job market. But another is the fact that many Germans tend to do business successfully. Even when they partner up with foreign companies, oftentimes, they come out on top. It's because of this that many have gone on to do business with the Germans. But this will only prove successful if you know how to do it properly. When doing business with the Germans, you have to abide by their own etiquette. Here's what you need to know.

Germany's Business Etiquette: What You Need To Know

Always Look Clean and Neat

When it comes to your appearances, Germans insist that you look neat and tidy. They tend to be conservative in regard to what one wears in corporate settings. In fact, they're rather strict about it. No matter what your position, you must always wear a suit. German businessmen/women tend to favor darker tones a lot too, such as black, grey, and navy. For women, they tend to wear light makeup and not have as many accessories during work hours. They also rarely wear dresses, and when they do, they're never too short nor sleeveless. For as much as possible, looking polished is the name of the game.

Respect The Business Hierarchy

In Germany's corporate world, hierarchy is everything. Most of those at the top have all the power and demand respect, while those under them have to work hard in order to reach their positions. When you work in Germany yourself, if you start a subordinate, you must answer to your direct manager. If needed, he/she will then consult the higher-ups. And during business meetings, you must always address the most senior members in the room first, then go down the list. It's the same when you answer questions in which two or more people are asking at the same time.

Germany's Business Etiquette: What You Need To Know

Remember People's Professional Titles

In relation to respecting business hierarchy in Germany, you must always address others with their titles. For instance, never forget to address people with Doctor or Professor if they've reached that academic rank. Note that failing to address them with such titles tends to feel disrespectful on their part, especially in corporate settings. And on a more personal level, instead of using Mr. and Ms., refer to your colleagues and/or superiors as Herr (for men) and Frau (for women) right before their surnames. This works well in both in-person greetings and emails.

Germans are Particular with Time

Now, let's talk about punctuality. Germans, especially in the corporate world, are actually pretty particular when it comes to time. For the most part, they expect you to arrive at any meeting or similar gathering on time. Even arriving five to ten minutes late will already be considered rude. If you can't help it, send a message beforehand if you can. But when it comes to actually setting up the meeting, however, German businessmen/women tend to prefer that you schedule it at a time it's convenient for all. And make sure that the agenda for said meeting is carefully prepared and fully organized, down to the most minute details.

Germany's Business Etiquette: What You Need To Know

Focus on The Work, Not Time

With that said, while in a business meeting or when you're working, make sure to focus on the work instead of the time. As much as you'd like to come up with a final decision by the end of the meeting, it's more important that you leave no stones unturned to get there. In fact, in most cases, you're not allowed to deviate from the set agenda on hand unless the most senior member at the meeting says it's okay. The same goes for working on collaborative projects too. Unless the head of the group deems it's okay to focus on other aspects, you're expected to work on what's currently on the table before you move on.

Giving Gifts Goes a Long Way

Although gift-giving isn't necessarily a common custom in Germany's corporate world, it does help when it comes to socializing outside of work. And oftentimes, it can benefit your business relations in the long run. However, do be mindful of what you give. It's taboo to give a luxury item as it can easily be regarded as a form of bribery. For the most part, a bottle of wine, a bouquet of flowers, or a box of chocolates or other treats will do. But when it comes to giving flowers, however, you also have to be careful. Make sure you give a bouquet with an even number of flowers. One with an odd number of flowers, especially 13, is considered bad luck.

Learn a Bit of German

Finally, for everyone's convenience, why not learn a little German? At least, the basics would be enough. After all, German is a more complicated language than you might think. Even a simple greeting can go a long way. In many German businessmen/women's eyes, if a foreign associate/client speaks their language to them, it shows their effort. and oftentimes, Germans will prefer to partner and collaborate with those who speak and understand their language. Moreover, it's common for business cards here to be written in both German and English. You might want to follow suit as well.

Germany's Business Etiquette: What You Need To Know

Doing business with the Germans, whose country is among the wealthiest and the most financially stable right now, is a smart move. And it's even smarter to know and adhere to their business etiquette when you work with them!

Once you've sealed the deal with your German partners, you might even earn enough to get a luxury home in the country!



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