Business Etiquette and Protocol in Germany

Relationships & Communicationsetiquette in germany

. Germans do not need a personal relationship in order to do business.
. They will be interested in your academic credentials and the amount of time your company has been in business.
. Germans display great deference to people in authority, so it is imperative that they understand your level relative to their own.
. Germans do not have an open-door policy. People often work with their office door closed. Knock and wait to be invited in before entering.
. German communication is formal.
. Following the established protocol is critical to building and maintaining business relationships.
. As a group, Germans are suspicious of hyperbole, promises that sound too good to be true, or displays of emotion.
. Germans will be direct to the point of bluntness.
. Expect a great deal of written communication, both to back up decisions and to maintain a record of decisions and discussions.

Business Meeting Etiquette

. Appointments are mandatory and should be made 1 to 2 weeks in advance.
. Letters should be addressed to the top person in the functional area, including the person’s name as well as their proper business title.
. If you write to schedule an appointment, the letter should be written in German.
. Punctuality is taken extremely seriously. If you expect to be delayed, telephone immediately and offer an explanation. It is extremely rude to cancel a meeting at the last minute and it could jeopardize your business relationship.
. Meetings are generally formal.
. Initial meetings are used to get to know each other. They allow your German colleagues to determine if you are trustworthy.
. Meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times.
. Maintain direct eye contact while speaking.
. Although English may be spoken, it is a good idea to hire an interpreter so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
. At the end of a meeting, some Germans signal their approval by rapping their knuckles on the tabletop.
There is a strict protocol to follow when entering a room:
. The eldest or highest ranking person enters the room first.
. Men enter before women, if their age and status are roughly equivalent.

Business Negotiation

. Do not sit until invited and told where to sit. There is a rigid protocol to be followed.
. Meetings adhere to strict agendas, including starting and ending times.
. Treat the process with the formality that it deserves.
. Germany is heavily regulated and extremely bureaucratic.
. Germans prefer to get down to business and only engage in the briefest of small talk. They will be interested in your credentials.
. Make sure your printed material is available in both English and German.
. Contracts are strictly followed.
. You must be patient and not appear ruffled by the strict adherence to protocol. Germans are detail- oriented and want to understand every innuendo before coming to an agreement.
. Business is hierarchical. Decision-making is held at the top of the company.
. Final decisions are translated into rigorous, comprehensive action steps that you can expect will be carried out to the letter.
. Avoid confrontational behaviour or high- pressure tactics. It can be counterproductive.
. Once a decision is made, it will not be changed.

Dress Etiquette

. Business dress is understated, formal and conservative.
. Men should wear dark coloured, conservative business suits.
. Women should wear either business suits or conservative dresses.
. Do not wear ostentatious jewellery or accessories.