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Berlin – Etiquette

Business dress in Germany is very conservative. Businessmen wear dark suits; solid, conservative ties, and white shirts. Women in dark suits and white blouses.

Chewing gum while talking to someone is considered rude.

The German thought process is extremely thorough, with each aspect of a project being examined in great detail. This process is often times very time-intensive. However, once the planning is over, a project will move very quickly and deadlines are expected to be honored.

Germans do not like surprises. Sudden changes in business transactions, even if they may improve the outcome, are unwelcome.

German citizens do not need or expect to be complimented. In Germany, it is assumed that everything is satisfactory unless the person hears otherwise.

Punctuality is necessity in Germany. Arrive on time for every appointment, whether for business or social. Being late, even if it is only by a few minutes, is very insulting to a German executive.

In business situations, shake hands at both the beginning and the end of a meeting.  Additionally, a handshake may be accompanied with a slight bow. Reciprocating the nod is a good way to make a good impression, as failure to respond with this nod/bow (especially a superior) may get you off to a bad start. Be sure to look directly into the person’s eyes while shaking hands.

When being introduced to a woman, wait to see if she extends her hand.

Business is viewed as being very serious, and Germans do not appreciate humor in a business context. In business meetings, age takes precedence over youth. If you are in a group setting, the eldest person enters first.

Germans keep a larger personal space around them, approximately 6 inches more space than North Americans do. However, it is not unusual that when in line at a store cash register, Germans will crowd up very close to the person in front of them.

German men frequently great each other with Herr ‘last name’, even when they know each other very well. Titles are very important to Germans. Do your best to address people by their full, correct title, no matter how extraordinarily long that title may seem to foreigners. This is also true when addressing a letter.

Germans love to talk on the telephone. While important business decisions are not made over the phone, expect many follow up calls or faxes. Germans guard their private life, so do not phone a German executive at home without permission.


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