Business Etiquette in Germany
Are you planning a business trip to Germany? Then you should know the business etiquette in Germany well. After all, business partners are expected to stick to the business etiquette. Punctuality is the top priority. Appear a few minutes early for a business appointment than five minutes late. If something really interferes and you cannot make the appointment punctually, it is advisable to give the business partner a short message by phone. To cancel a meeting at the last minute would be an absolute no-go. Here are more tips for business etiquette in Germany.
Business dress code, business cards & gifts
Germans attach great importance to being well dressed. Under no circumstances should you dress too casually. This is perceived as disrespectful in Germany. Choose more formal, conservative and tend to inconspicuous clothing. With a dark suit, a white shirt and, if necessary, a simple tie, you, as a gentleman, are properly dressed in most cases. Women should not dress sexily and refrain from too much make-up, pompous jewelry or accessories.
Presenting a business card at the first meeting is a good thing. According to Business Etiquette you hand over your business card first. If several business partners are present, start with the highest ranking. If you don’t know the hierarchy in the company, simply distribute your business cards in a row. Presenting gifts at a business meeting, on the other hand, is rather uncommon. If you decide to do so, choose a small gift of good quality that is not too expensive. With an original office product or a local souvenir from your home region, you are usually right. If you receive a gift or business card from your correspondent, you should give it your due immediately before you pack it away.
Respect the privacy of the other
To greet and say goodbye, you shake hands in Germany: a short handshake, not too strong, but not flabby. Look your interlocutor in the eye. In the salutation you use preceding titles – such as doctor or mayor – and the last name of the opposite. Never duce a person unless she explicitly offers you the “you”. In general, the Germans appreciate, if the interlocutor respects their privacy, knocking before entering their office and the physical distance, which should be at least one meter, maintains.
Smalltalk topic: Smalltalk is common in everyday German business but is generally a bit scarcer than in other cultures. In Germany, work and private life are strictly separated. Therefore, don’t be too personal with small talk and avoid taboo subjects like income and negatives in general. As far as business communication is concerned, Germans express themselves directly. Try to articulate your opinion clearly and not “beat around the bush”. Your hosts will appreciate it. What they don’t appreciate, is a penetrating phone ringing during a conversation. Mute or set it to vibrate for the duration of the meeting.
Finally, a tip for business lunches: Start with the food, if the host has given the signal, and wish all present a „Guten Appetit“! If you internalize these rules of behavior, you are prepared for the most important situations on your business trip to Germany.