10 tips for doing business in Germany

Introduction to German business culture

You will make a good impression by coming across as an expert in your subject, who has thoroughly researched the German market and is able to answer detailed technical questions. You will be smartly dressed, a straight-talker, efficient and decisive. Academic qualifications impress Germans.

Infographic: Top 10 business etiquette insights – Germany

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Top 10 tips on German business culture

Here are 10 essential tips for making a good impression when doing business in Germany:

  1. Be strong. Managers in Germany need to be assertive, hardworking, analytical and technical, with a capacity to lead.
  2. Keep it formal. Even people who have worked together for years often use the polite ‘Sie’ form of address. Using the familiar form, ‘du’, would be a serious gaffe.
  3. Be direct. Germans appreciate clarity, honesty and respect. They are direct communicators and value a person who sticks to their word.
  4. Appreciate process. Germans have a strong desire to do things the correct way, whether this means a technical task or a social function. Deviating from the norm is not appreciated.
  5. Be punctual. Lateness is considered very rude; a sign that you do not value the other person’s time.
  6. Keep it brief. Presentations should be concise, technical and to the point. Be prepared to answer detailed questions. Do not use humour or long, elaborate metaphors.
  7. Keep standards high. The features and performance of a product is more important than its look or image, although Germans do have a strong eye for aesthetic appeal as well.
  8. Understand the social fabric. Society is highly structured and life is conducted according to a set of rules, right down to something as simple as the ritual of greeting a shopkeeper when you enter a shop.
  9. Be patient. Decision-making takes a long time as many outside experts will be consulted.
  10. Think long term. Focus is on the long term, and on achieving stability. Germans will wait for results if a project is sound enough.

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german business culture

About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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