Doing business with Germans without adequate cross-cultural awareness might be risky, and it could easily result in misunderstanding and frustration for all the parties involved. To avoid potential cross-cultural tensions, make sure you understand the German economic landscape and its business etiquette.
Tips for a successful business with Germans:
Germans prefer the direct and unmediated communication style in business because, in this way, it is possible to get right down to business, talk about what is essential for both parties, and save time. The German discussion style implies a clear goal orientation, defined structure, and a reliance on objective, carefully prepared.
• Be clear, consistent, and direct in your message.
• Hints are not understood in Germany. If you don’t understand a task, don’t hesitate to ‘Ask.’ Don’t assume.
• Germans do not appreciate embellishments, exaggerations, pretentious speeches, and excessive compliments.
• Plan significant events ahead of time. Don’t wait until the very last moment.
• If you are running late for a meeting, it is better to call and let them know without making anyone wait.
• Define a structured agenda and prepare yourself for the meeting. Get the necessary documentation for it.
• Be on time for appointments.
• For women: short skirts (six inches above the knee), bare shoulders, low-cut blouses, bright colors, or sensual attires do not fit well with the business dress code.
• For men: athletic suits, t-shirts, shorts, and open sandals are considered inappropriate.
• Business dress in Germany is understated, formal, and conservative.
Presentations and speeches: A vigorous presentation style is received positively when it involves active contact with the audience and an interactive presentation mode.
• The speech rate is usually moderate, and the tone is calm.
• Don’t interrupt a presentation. It is perceived as impolite.
• In speeches and presentations, be goal-orientation, clear-logical structure, having a ‘common thread,’ and a lively speaking style.
It may seem overwhelming to think about all these recommendations while doing business with Germans, but don’t worry! This is not a strict list. Many German people in the international cooperation sector are becoming more flexible, easy-going, and less conservative.