German Business Etiquette

Germans have a strong reputation for loving organisation and planning and are the masters of both. Many Germans believe that their serious attitude to business is a decisive factor in making their nation strong, proud and individualistic and are, therefore, very keen that others follow and respect their business etiquette.

German business is governed by structured laws and rules that determine the proper separation of business and leisure. Most people take business extremely seriously, so humour is rarely seen to be appropriate. Planning is crucial as it gives a feeling of structure and security. Expect all your projects to be examined with great attention to detail – and it is considered good practice for your printed material to be available in German and English. Address letters to the person with the highest managerial position in that sector and include the person’s name and their formal business title.

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Making appointments

Business appointments in Germany are mandatory and should be booked at least one to two weeks in advance. Never arrive late to a meeting as this is considered extremely rude and a breach of German business etiquette. Try and arrive ten minutes before the time of the meeting to create a good impression. Don’t barge into a room; knock and wait for a reply before entering and then proceed to individually shake hands with everyone within. Be aware that the protocol is for the eldest person to enter a room first; men before women if they are the same age. Minutes are taken during meetings and are used to confirm decisions and to record discussions. During the meeting, try and maintain eye contact with the speaker to show you are listening and the same courtesy will be shown to you in your turn.

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