It is so important to know German business etiquette to successfully navigate your professional career. Make sure that you know all the phrases and vocabulary as well as the top tips below.
1. Small talk in meetings at the end
Politeness is everything, that is also the case in Germany. However, it is interesting that in Germany small-talk tends to be short at the beginning but then at the end of the meeting you might end-up in a small-talk chat. This German business etiquette tip also helps a lot when having job interviews. A great way to prepare for a phone call in German is to listen to an audiobook in German.
2. first email then a phone call
It is much more effective in Germany to send an email first and then call your client 2-5 days later. Cold calls for new clients or even existing clients are seen as impolite. When you give the client a call, refer to the email that you sent, this business etiquette works even with gatekeepers like secretaries or switchboards.
3. Receiving Confirmations take time
Be patient my young padawan. It might take more time than you are used to, to come to an agreement or progress with the negotiations, but once you have an agreement, you can count on it.
4. short follow up emails are not impolite
You might not get an email back from your business contact, but it is absolutely no problem to send a one-line email 1-2 weeks later, just asking politely to take a look at the email below.
5. try to stick to facts
When in meetings and negotiations stick to facts rather than long-winded sentences and explanations. This will work wonders because people in Germany believe more in the power of facts and data than a well-delivered story.
6. be punctual
Even being 8 Minutes late can offend your business partner or the person you’d like to meet. Try to get to the location where you meet early, you can still walk around the area or refresh yourself, this gives you a buffer in case something unexpected like a traffic jam or train delay happens. Trust me, it’s worth it!
7. dress well
The dress code in Germany is generally more conservative. Business meeting means a business suit, this way you stay on the safe side. In start-ups the dress code is casual, especially in the creative capital Berlin. In Frankfurt, the banking capital, the dress code is definitely more conservative.
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8. Titles are important
Address people with their titles, like Dr. Müller or Prof. Meier and always address them with the surname. If the person does not have a title use Frau Müller or Herr Meier. But relax, no one will blame you if you forgot to say the title, but generally, it’s good to use them. Don’t forget to use “Sie” too!
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