German business culture and customs
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German Business Culture and Customs. Deutsche Geschäfts-Kultur und Gewohnheiten. Lazarus (Michael Aubee). A Brief Introduction. Germany is one of the business centers of the world The world is shrinking!

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German business culture and customs

German Business Culture and Customs


Geschäfts-Kultur und Gewohnheiten


(Michael Aubee)

A brief introduction
A Brief Introduction

  • Germany is one of the business centers of the world

  • The world is shrinking!

  • It is reasonable to assume that many of us will have to do business on a world-wide scale

  • German citizens have their own ways of doing business

  • Today we are going to explore these differences

A few basic ideas
A Few Basic Ideas

  • Don’t be late - Germans are a timely bunch

    • If for some reason it is unavoidable CALL AHEAD

      • Be ready with an apology and a reasonable explanation about why you will be late

      • Being late is considered an insult to the host

  • Don’t be a clown – Business is serious stuff to Germans

    • Being the group joker is considered unprofessional

      • This can make people doubt the validity of your information

      • Jokes are considered childish and inappropriate

A few basic ideas continued
A Few Basic Ideas (Continued)

  • Personal Space – Give a fellow some elbow room

    • Germans have a solid sense of personal space, if this space is violated they will move to regain it

      • Do not lean over or into your German partners, they will be offended and will resist being near you

  • Physical contact – Don’t do it

    • The only reasonable physical contact German Professionals prefer is a good, firm handshake

      • Do not clap them on the shoulder or grab their hand in both of yours

      • More on this later

Making contact
Making Contact

  • Contact by phone – Manners

    • Titles are important, using them shows respect

      • You do not want to talk to Doctor Carl, you want to talk to Herr Doktor Gregory Haus, full name and both titles

      • Be formal and polite, avoid small talk, stick to business

  • Contact by email or letter

    • Titles are still the rule of the day

      • In the states we address a letter or an email to Doctor and Mrs. Haus, but in Germany it is Herr Doktor Gregory Haus and Frau Lisa Haus

      • Use good common sense when composing your letter or email, include facts and go into detail in any descriptions you give

Making contact continued
Making Contact (continued)

  • Scheduling an appointment

    • When scheduling your appointment you should plan ahead

      • Avoid scheduling meetings for early morning, this is a busy times for Germans as they are organizing tasks for the day and planning out priorities

      • Avoid scheduling an appointment for Friday afternoon, this makes your meeting one of the last things they must deal with in the week, and if there is anything that must be dealt with immediately they will not have sufficient time

      • Schedule your meeting two to three weeks in advance, German business professionals are advance planners who like time to prepare

Meetings with germans
Meetings With Germans

  • First and foremost, don’t be late!

    • This is the quickest way to insult your host

    • Even being a couple of minutes late is inexcusable

  • Meetings always start and end with handshakes

    • The senior person in your group should extend their hand as they approach the senior person in the receiving group while introducing themselves

    • If you do not know who is the senior person in the receiving group, approach the oldest person, this is perceived as respectful

Meetings with germans continued
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Meetings always start and end with handshakes (Continued)

    • Your handshake should be a firm handshake of reasonable duration

    • You should shake hands with everyone present, even children (only if they are willing)

    • You should only shake hands with women if they extend their hand to do so, if so, remember to give them the same firm handshake you gave their male counterparts

    • Gestures that occasionally accompany a handshake in the US such as clapping someone on the shoulder should be avoided

Meetings with germans continued1
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Seating for the meeting

    • Wait for the senior person present to invite you to be seated

    • Seat yourself where directed, just as here in the US, there is usually a “pecking order” determining who sits where

    • Seat yourself just after or as the senior person present sits

    • When a woman walks into the room it is considered polite to stand, however, always follow the lead of the senior person present

Meetings with germans continued2
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Meetings are serious and to the point

  • Do not expect “small talk” beyond the initial greetings

  • Make certain you know the material you are presenting

  • German business professionals are extremely detail oriented, if you cannot answer their questions on details about your material you will be viewed as unprofessional and unprepared for the meeting

Meetings with germans continued3
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Humor in the meeting

    • Throughout this presentation a tone has been set that suggests that humor is always inappropriate, this is not always true

    • If a bit of humor is tasteful and in context, feel free to put the joke in

    • If the joke is present “just to be funny”, or because “everyone likes a good joke” avoid it, you will be seen as unprofessional and your material will be considered suspect

Meetings with germans continued4
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Plan your presentation time

    • If you are given 15 minutes to speak, that is what you have , not 14, not 16, 15 minutes

  • Germans respect concrete facts, not how charismatic you are, expect to give details

  • Meetings are slow and methodical, do not expect a quick meeting

  • Once a decision has been reached, it has been reached, it is unlikely that there will be any changes made later

Meetings with germans continued5
Meetings With Germans (Continued)

  • Germans do not like surprises, even surprise changes with positive results are not liked, they are considered to show a failure plan properly

  • The positive side of the German business meeting is that when the plan is put into motion, there are seldom problems, as these have been worked out in advance

  • Remember to again shake hands with everyone at the end of the meeting, to not do so shows a lack of respect

After the meeting
After the meeting

  • Expect follow-up calls and emails concerning details about the project and requesting progress updates

  • Be on top of the situation, German business professionals do not like surprises, by constantly checking in with you, they hope to catch any problems while they are still small and manageable.

  • If at all possible when there is a problem be proactive, if you can report a problem as being solved, or as having a plan in place to deal with the problem when you are contacted, you are viewed as being that much more professional


  • Business is serious to your German colleagues

  • Irrelevant jokes, gaffs, and other humor are not appreciated

  • Phone calls and emails or letters should be formal

  • “Small talk” is discouraged in meetings beyond simple greetings

  • Be aware of physical space and always shake hands

  • Meetings are methodical and planning is slow and deliberate

A last note
A last note

The purpose of this presentation has been to provide those making use of it some insight into German business culture. It is important to note that the statements made herein are blanket statements that may or may not apply in a given specific situation. These statements are intended to guide in general encounters when dealing with German business professionals at large.