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German business etiquette – part 2


We continue the short list of business etiquette to follow when dealing with Germans.

Knock first: earn German colleagues’ respect by respecting their privacy. If you find a closed door, especially to a private office, always knock before entering. Equally, never call a German colleague at home unless it’s really an emergency … of catastrophic proportions.

Keep your distance: Germans don’t tend to be the touchy-feely types. Observe the personal space of others and avoid patting shoulders, arms or generally any physical contact beyond the all-important handshake.

Say what you mean: in negotiations Germans tend to be direct and frank about what they want and they will expect you to do the same. If you are pitching a project, remember making a decision can be a long process; so don’t bother with the hard sell, just present all the facts as thoroughly as you can. Likewise, if Germans are presenting you with a proposal, stock up on coffee and be prepared to be shown a barrage of figures, graphs, labels and pie charts.

Plan ahead: Germans tend to keep full, relatively inflexible calendars, so be sure to schedule meetings well in advance. Surprises are generally frowned upon, so don’t expect to be able to change or cancel an appointment at short notice without annoying your German associates. Last minute cancellations are even a worse sin than being late.

Guten Appetit: if attending a business lunch or other meal, wait for the host to initiate most things – drinking wine, eating and conversation. Make sure to wish everyone Guten appetit before digging in. When toasting chime with Prost! or Zum Wohl! and look other guests in the eyes when clinking glasses. Hopefully, the meal will follow the German motto: first take care of business, then drink and laugh!

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