etiquette MVERY DEUTSCH...

German business practices are different to those practiced in other countries, so it is important that you are aware of these when dealing with potential clients or business partners.


We will guide and help you with the best approach, so that you are well versed when it comes to how best to conduct yourself when it comes to German business etiquette.


German Business Meeting Etiquette 

Proper business etiquette for German meetings is distinct from that in the United States and in many other European countries. In the following we will give some tips about Germany business etiquette. These are only meant as a broad guide.  


Address colleagues according to title and surname until you are personally invited to use a first name or another form. Germans value formality and authority, so titles are important.

Similarly, be sure to communicate your particular position or title. This will help establish your authority and set the tone for your subsequent business interactions. If you don't speak German, we can act in an interpreting capacity if needed to demonstrate your professionalism and facilitate communication.

Use last names and appropriate titles until specifically invited by your German host or colleagues to use their first names.

Titles are very important. Never use titles incorrectly and never fail to use them. If unsure, err in favour of a higher title.  A Doctor can be either a medical doctor or a holder of a Ph.D.

It is important to become familiar with the processes and timelines required for the receipt of regulatory approval for various stages of establishing and operating your business in Germany.  We can help you in this process.


Be on-time or call if you are going to be more than 15 minutes late. Punctuality is paramount for German business meetings, and last-minute cancellations are considered to be extremely rude – they could even cost you a business relationship.

Formally write up decisions or meeting notes and give copies to your German colleagues. Because German business people value precision and thorough record keeping, having these notes will highlight your eye for detail and respect for structure.

Go that extra mile and impress your German colleagues by getting a German translation of all pertinent documents.  We can do this for you!

Meeting and Greeting

At a business or social meeting, shake hands with everyone present when arriving and leaving. When introducing yourself, never use your title. Introduce yourself by your last name only.

Never shake hands with one hand in your pocket.

Knock before entering rooms and be sure to allow those in higher positions to enter first. For men and woman of equal status, men will enter before women. These particularly rigid rules of German business etiquette show the German respect for authority and order.

Wait to sit until instructed to do so. The most senior-ranking individual in a German business meeting will typically tell each participant where to sit. This is another rule of German business meeting etiquette that is followed with strict precision.

Avoid exaggerations and high-pressure talk/strategies, as all are considered offensive.

Dress conservatively. Dark business suits are appropriate outfits for both men and women.

Maintain eye contact when speaking and listening to your German colleagues.

Stick to a meeting's agenda and avoid extending meetings past their established schedules, as Germans value precise planning.

Rank is very important in business. Never set up a meeting for a lower ranked company employee to meet with a higher ranked person.

The primary purpose of a first meeting is to get to know one another and to evaluate the person, to gain trust, and the check chemistry.

Meetings are often formal and scheduled weeks in advance.

Germans generally discuss business after a few minutes of general discussion.

Arrive at meetings well prepared. Avoid hard-sell tactics or surprise.

Germans take business very seriously. Levity is not common in the workplace.

Body Language

Maintain eye contact when speaking and listening to your German colleagues.

Germans may appear reserved and unfriendly until you get to know them better.

Never put your hands in your pockets when talking with someone.

"Thumbs up" gesture means "one" or is a sign of appreciation or agreement.

Making hands into two fists, thumbs tucked inside the other fingers and making pounding motion lightly on a surface expresses "good luck."

Never use the "okay" sign (index finger and thumb jointed together to make a circle). This is considered a rude gesture.

Don't point your index finger to your own head. This is regarded as an insult.

Other miscellaneous points:

Business cards in English are acceptable.

Germans are competitive, ambitious and hard bargainers.

Avoid exaggerations and high-pressure talk/strategies, as all are considered offensive.

Dress conservatively. Dark business suits are appropriate outfits for both men and women.

Objective criticism isn't given or received easily. Compliments are seldom given for work product.

Organization is logical, methodical and compartmentalized with procedures and routines done "by the book."

Decision making is slow with thorough analysis of all facts.

Germans are not comfortable handling the unexpected. Plans are cautious with fallback positions, contingency plans, and comprehensive action steps - carried out to the letter.

Germans produce massive written communications to elaborate on and confirm discussions.

Written or spoken presentations should be specific, factual, technical and realistic.

Reports, briefings and presentations should be backed up by facts, figures, tables and charts.

Germans have an aversion to divergent opinions, but will negotiate and debate an issue fervently.

Remain silent if the floor has not been given to you or if you are not prepared to make an informed contribution.

Decisions are often debated informally and are generally made before meetings with compliance rather than consensus expected in the meeting.

Always deliver information, products, proposals, etc., to clients on time.

Do not call a German at home unless it is an emergency.

Dining and Entertainment

To beckon a waiter, raise your hand and say, "Herr Ober." To beckon a waitress, raise your hand and say, "Fräulein."

Business breakfasts are arranged, but more often a business lunch is preferred.

Lunch with business colleagues generally involves social conversation. Do not discuss business during lunch or dinner unless your German host initiates the conversation.

Business entertaining is usually done in restaurants.

Spouses are generally not included in business dinners.

Nobody drinks at a dinner party before the host has drunk. The host will raise his glass to the woman on his right and then toast to the health of the group. Thereafter, people may drink as they see fit.

When toasting as a guest, hold the glass only at the stem, clink your glass with everyone near you at the table and say Prosit, then take a drink. Then look into the eyes of someone at your table and lift your glass just slightly, then bring your glass down to the table.

Guten Appetit is said before eating and means "enjoy your meal". It is the host's way of saying, "please start". Guests can respond by saying Guten Appetit or Danke ebenfalls, which means, "thank you."

A guest of honor is seated to the left of the hostess if it is a man and to the right of the host if it is a woman.

Keep your hands on the table at all times during a meal -- not in your lap. However, take care to keep your elbows off the table.

Do not leave any food on your plate when you are finished eating.

Do not smoke until after dinner is finished and coffee is served. Then ask permission.

When finished eating, place knife and fork side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position.

If you are taking a break during the meal, but would like to continue eating or would like more food, cross the knife and fork on your plate with the fork over the knife.

Germans don't tend to stay long after dinner. The honored guests are expected to make the first move to leave.

A "thank you" is usually done in person or with a telephone call.

Do not ask for a tour of your host's home, it would be considered impolite.


Gifts are normally not exchanged at business meetings, but small gifts may be appropriate at the successful conclusion of negotiations.

When invited to someone's home, always bring a small gift for the hostess.

For a large party, send flowers before the party or the next day.


Germans are more formal and punctual than most of the world. They have prescribed roles and seldom step out of line.

But don’t worry!  We will guide and help you with the best approach, so that you are well versed when it comes to how best to conduct yourself when it comes to German business etiquette and we can accompany you if necessary.


Contact us now for further questions!

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