WORKING ABROAD / FEB. 18, 2014
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How to Master German Business Etiquette

While not as important as most Asian countries, business etiquette is still important in Germany. Germany is a unique country with a unique culture and so, it is only natural that it will have a distinct business etiquette. While you can conduct business without following these rules, you will be much more successful if you follow them.

Business Cards Are Not Sacred

Thankfully, in Germany the business card is not as revered as it is in most Asian countries. There is no need to receive it with any kind of specific ceremony, or place it in a special holder. But German people are quite reserved, so it is usually best to have a relatively plain business card, for German people less is more. It may be seen as polite if you translated one side of the card into German though.

Dress Code

The German dress code is quite conservative and most men would usually be expected to wear a dark suit. Women likewise would usually be expected to wear an appropriate skirt, or pant with blouse and jacket. Germans do not usually practise the American concept of casual Friday.

Communication

Germans place a lot of value on the respect of authority and seniority. When you are addressing someone, it is always best to address him or her by their title and last name. It is considered quite rude to address someone by their first name, unless you are on personal terms with them already. The Germans feel that titles give authority and place a lot of importance on them.

Punctuality

Germans are extremely strict about punctuality. It is important to either be on time, or call to let people know that you are going to be late. Lateness and last minute cancellations are considered extremely rude.

Seniority

The most senior person in the business will usually tell everyone when and where to sit in a meeting. Make sure not to sit down before you are told to, as the Germans place quite a bit of importance on showing respect for authority and seniority. It is also customary to knock before you enter a room and for the most senior people to enter first. This is another aspect of the German respect for authority and seniority.

Eye Contact

Unlike some Asian countries, you must maintain eye contact with Germans when they are talking to you. If you do not, it will seem as if you are ignoring them and just be considered rude.

 Small Talk

Small talk is not usually encouraged in German meetings. German workers like people to stick to the point and are not particularly adept at small talk. The Germans are masters of efficiency so deviating from a meeting’s agenda will be frowned upon.

Overall, showing a respect for authority, sticking to agenda and being polite, is what is required of you in Germany when doing business. If you stick to the tips above which should not be too hard; then doing business in Germany should prove to be relatively easy. The only additional thing that you might need is a German translator.

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