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Business Culture

Germany - Business Culture

German business culture is formal and follows established rules and protocol. Germans like business to be well organized, and pay great attention to detail. It will be important to conduct your research thoroughly, and to ensure that written and presentational materials are accurate and informative, as they will be scrutinized in detail. Most German businesspeople can speak English, so meetings can be held in either language, but written materials should be translated into German.

You should arrange appointments several weeks in advance, and send an agenda. When fixing meetings, try to avoid the holiday times of July, August and December. Try to arrive early, as it is considered disrespectful to waste someone's time by being late. Similarly, be sure to respond immediately to any correspondence.

The usual form of greeting is a firm handshake with direct eye contact, and business cards are exchanged. Take care when in a group not to reach across someone else's handshake, as this is considered to bring bad luck. Don't stand too close, as Germans have a strong sense of personal space. Professional, academic or personal titles (Herr or Frau), followed by surnames, should always be used, first names are not generally used in business here. Business dress is conservative, with dark formal suits and white shirts or blouses for both men and women.

Meetings follow established protocol, and will be led by the senior member of the German team. There is little small talk, and joking is not considered appropriate in a business setting. Presentations should be logical and based in fact; avoid hype. The German style of communication is direct and probing. Negotiations and decision-making can be lengthy, since Germans have an analytical approach and will consider all aspects of a proposal in great detail. Once made, decisions are final, and commitments and deadlines must be honoured.

Since Germans are private people, it is not normal practice for business visitors to be invited to their homes. If you are, take a small gift such as flowers or chocolates. It is also acceptable to give small business gifts to the host organisation, such as some smart office stationery or a craft from your home country.

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