The Latest! Cultural Clues, Do’s and Taboos for Germany
A Series of Cultural Tips for Countries from A to Z
Cultural Clues & Communication Guidelines for Germany
It’s easy for business travelers to think that even when they travel, business is going to be done pretty much the same way it is at home. But that’s not always the case. Cultural differences can have a big impact on global business etiquette. That’s why it’s important for business travelers to make sure that they understand the culture of the country that they’re doing business in.
This article on cultural differences in Germany and cultural travel tips for Germany is a brief snapshot of conversation guidelines for Germany, tips for communicating in Germany, and business strategies for Germany to help with understanding the culture in Germany. It’s important to keep in mind that as we homogenize as a ‘global culture’, cultural tendencies change and evolve as well. Awareness is the first step when it comes to cultural do’s and taboos for Germany and tips for intercultural communication!
Cultural Tips for Germany – including some valuable business travel tips for Germany
“Small talk” is not part of the culture in Germany. Conversation focuses on matters of substance and genuine interest. There is little use for superficial inquiries or observations. Don’t interrupt and always allow each speaker to make his or her point before responding.
Germans often enjoy discussing politics and you’ll find that they are very frank. Don’t get involved in the political discussion unless you are well-informed.
Giving compliments is not part of German business protocol and usually causes only embarrassment or discomfort.
Firm, brief handshakes at the time of arrival and departure are standard. Refrain from using the standard U.S. conversation opener, “How are you?” which may be considered superficial.
Too much smiling and public gestures of affection are frowned upon, especially in the business culture. These displays are reserved for family and close friends. Eye contact during the introduction is serious, direct, and should be maintained as long as the person is addressing you.
In accordance with German business protocol, the eldest or highest-ranking person enters the room first.
In business, Germans do not freely share information among the various levels of the same organization. However, the younger generation is becoming more open.
Keep your hands out of your pockets and avoid chewing gum when conducting business.
The “O.K.” sign (formed by having the tip of the thumb meet the tip of the forefinger) should be avoided.
Germans tend to be intensely analytical thinkers. Objective facts are the basis for truth in German business culture and feelings are irrelevant, especially in negotiations.
There is a tendency among German businesspeople to be unreceptive to new ideas and concepts until well researched. Generally, they are reluctant to do something differently unless the reason is extremely convincing.
Flexibility and spontaneity are not prominent traits in German business culture. Concepts such as “brainstorming”, “risk-taking”, or challenging rules and authority are not necessarily considered desirable.
It’s important that you bring a carefully planned, logically organized proposal to a meeting. When you are preparing promotional or presentation material, be aware that German businesspeople are usually unimpressed by glitzy advertising, illustrations, and memorable slogans.
Brochures aimed at the German market should be serious in tone, go into lengthy detail, and make claims that can be proven. Business meetings are treated as serious occasions. Humor and jokes are reserved for socializing.
German businesspeople will present logical and often substantial arguments to support their position. They do not make concessions easily, however, they will look for common ground and this is your best route to making progress when negotiations reach an impasse.
Germans can be very sensitive to criticism themselves, so you should do everything you can to avoid embarrassing them, even unintentionally.
While Germans generally prefer to maintain an air of formality, they can become very emotional if their sense of order and routine becomes challenged.
Germans are typically very private people. Never discuss personal matters during business negotiations. It’s important, however, to develop a comradeship with your associates, especially if you’ll be working with them for a long time.
Decision-making in German business culture is slow, protracted, and every detail relating to your proposal will be painstakingly examined.
Although you’re likely to deal with a variety of people during the initial negotiations, only those at the top of the management hierarchy will make, and even be informed about, the final decision.
Contracts are taken very seriously in German business culture. Everything agreed to in writing is virtually guaranteed.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Tips
Sports, particularly soccer, cycling, skiing, tennis, and hiking
Any topic related to travel
Beer is always a good topic of conversation. Germany produces some of the finest beers in the world, and seasoned drinkers enjoy comparing and contrasting the qualities of the various brews available.
Food and the distinct German Cuisine, as well as German wines. Many of the white wines, like Riesling from Alsace, are famous worldwide.
Architecture, the progressive German cities, scenery, nature, and the picturesque homes in the countryside.
5 Key Conversation or Cultural Gesture Taboos
Anything related to World War II or the Holocaust.
Personal questions until the relationship is well established.
Work and family life are usually kept separate, so stick to the business at hand.
Current events and politics, unless you really know what you’re talking about as it relateson a global basis.
Germany is a very proud culture, so avoid criticism of anything pertaining to Germany or the German people.
Join us in the future for Do’s and Taboos for GREECE!
To learn more about the Dos and Taboos for different cultures, and the cultural communication styles for Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East – order Gayle Cotton’s bestselling book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’ available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book
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Emmy Award Winner, Gayle Cotton, is the author of this blog and of the bestselling cross-cultural communication book ‘SAY Anything to Anyone, Anywhere! 5 Keys to Successful Cross-Cultural Communication’, which is available on Amazon as a Book, eBook, or Audio Book. She is President of Circles Of Excellence Inc. and a Professional Keynote Speaker. Contact Gayle if you need professional speakers for events, speakers on cultural diversity, conference speakers for events, or keynote speakers that specialize in cross-cultural training. She is a leader in the field of public speakers, motivational speakers, and international keynote speakers. She is among the best of female keynote speakers and women motivational speakers and is a ‘first choice’ request for international audiences!
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