If your company does business in Germany and is soon sending employees on business travel to Berlin or Frankfurt, they should be aware of the cultural and business practices common in Germany to make their trip run smoothly. Here are some tips to pass along to your employees embarking on business travel to Germany:
In German business culture and otherwise, being late is unforgivable – even just five minutes late – unless you have a really good reason. To avoid a terrible first impression, make sure to be prompt. A few minutes early is good, but if you arrive too early, that can also be seen as not having respect for another person’s time.
Upon greeting someone and during all subsequent meetings, make sure to use the person’s title and surname, unless they invite you to do otherwise. Brief but firm handshakes are the norm, but it’s important to wait your turn to greet everyone, rather than reaching over others’ hands, which is common practice in the U.S. Additionally, office hierarchies are pretty strict, so there’s a level of formality expected in most business settings. If you are hosting a meeting or dinner, make sure to introduce guests to each other in their order of hierarchy.
If you’re hosting dinner at a restaurant, you should know that a service charge – not only in restaurants but in hotels, cafes and bars – is already included in the bill. However, an extra small tip is ok, with 5 percent being an average tip and 10 percent showing that service was phenomenal. You should typically tip cab drivers around 5 percent and one Euro per item to people who assist you with baggage.
During business travel to Germany, you’ll likely take part in a meeting or two, so it’s important to know how meetings are conducted there. Generally, German culture dictates a separation between public and private spheres, which means that meetings often begin immediately with little small talk, and they follow the agenda pretty closely with adherence to start and finish times.Direct and explicit communication is pretty important in Germany – there’s no need to dress up what you’re saying and you should generally avoid creating situations where people need to read between the lines. Instead, just be direct.