Business Etiquette for Working in Berlin

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By Dzhingarov

Germans take business seriously and prefer structured formality in meetings and workplaces. Events usually follow an agenda and arrive punctually. Hierarchy is highly valued within offices; therefore public criticism of higher-ranking employees does not go down well.

Handshakes are generally used as the standard greeting. People should generally be addressed using their surname followed by either Mr or Frau, followed by any professional honorifics such as Dr if applicable.

Arrive on Time

Germans are famously punctual, so it’s best to arrive prior to scheduled times for meetings and appointments. A few minutes’ delay may be accepted; however, showing up consistently late is considered rude and unprofessional. If a circumstance requires it, call and explain your delay by making sure to explain that an emergency has arisen first.

Meetings in Germany tend to be serious affairs that remain focused on their tasks at hand. Rambling or venturing off topic won’t go over well with Germans who value efficiency and organization; hyperbole or promises that seem too good to be true can often raise suspicion in these meetings held within offices; hence why jeans and T-shirts shouldn’t be worn unless it is casual day!

Business attire in Germany tends to be formal yet understated, with men typically donning dark suits with ties while women typically dress in pants or skirts with matching blouses – neutral colors are customary too! Gift-giving may not be part of German culture as such but may be appreciated on special occasions like an especially successful negotiation session.

Punctuality is of the utmost importance in Berlin business etiquette, so be at your meeting well ahead of schedule. A few minutes’ delay might even be welcomed by some, but being consistently late can be considered rude and unprofessional – in this instance it would be appropriate to contact and notify people as to the reason for lateness, unless it’s an actual emergency situation in which case call and explain your circumstances before arriving late to their meetings.

Be Polite

Germans take punctuality very seriously and consider being late for business meetings or appointments an insulting sign of disrespect. If you know you will be late, call ahead and apologize sincerely; generally it’s recommended that one arrives 10-15 minutes early to such engagements.

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As part of business etiquette, shaking hands when meeting new colleagues, clients, employers or employees is considered polite and respectful. For this particular handshake it is appropriate to use only your right hand with its left hand out of its pocket – and eye contact between colleagues should always be maintained in an attempt at showing respect.

Germany has an established hierarchy, so it is essential to show respect for seniority and authority. When meeting, it is appropriate to address your German counterparts by their professional title and last name until invited otherwise; when writing correspondence it should also include their proper names.

Meetings in Germany tend to be formal affairs with clearly laid out agendas. A first meeting should serve to acquaint parties and assess whether there is a rapport. Personal matters and excessive small talk are not suitable during these encounters; rather Germans are wary of promises made too quickly or that seem unrealistic; before agreeing to business with you they want to see credentials and proof.

Don’t Talk Over Your Colleagues

Working with colleagues from different cultures requires learning how to navigate differences in communication styles. Germans tend to be direct and explicit when speaking out their thoughts; however, taking too much time over conversations or interrupting colleagues is not appreciated.

Germans are well known for their meticulousness and do not take decisions lightly or quickly. Furthermore, their hierarchical workplace structure often imposes stringent protocols which must be observed precisely; any sign that someone may not be committed to the task at hand could be perceived as disrespectful and taken as evidence that someone may not be committed enough.

Germans distinguish strongly between their work and personal lives. If you find yourself casually speaking during business meetings or using casual language during meetings, it may be taken as an indicator that you don’t take your tasks or colleagues seriously enough. Furthermore, calling colleagues by their first names might signal lack of professional respect or dedication to the company.

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Addressing colleagues casually via email correspondence is unprofessional and will likely not go well with them. Instead, start all emails off with formal greetings such as “guten tag” or “hello”, using their surname throughout communication process.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

Working with people of different cultures is an incredible opportunity to broaden your networks and form new bonds, but it’s essential that you understand their respective business etiquette. Our latest Talaera Talks episode discusses how you can effectively collaborate with German colleagues by avoiding common missteps in communication and etiquette.

Punctuality is taken very seriously in Germany, so being even five or ten minutes late to meetings could be considered rude. Once a meeting begins on time, it’s essential that attendees adhere strictly to their agenda and don’t veer off topic; Germans are known for being highly detail-oriented so don’t be surprised if conversations take a while!

Shaking hands is an expected part of German business culture and it’s best to wait until your colleagues do the same before reciprocating the gesture yourself. Any unnecessary touching should be kept to a minimum during meetings as physical contact can be perceived as inappropriate in an office environment.

Germans tend to be very open about hierarchy, often using titles during introductions. Furthermore, they will likely ask about your qualifications and education when making decisions; understanding this can help build trust and credibility with German counterparts; being honest and direct will certainly be appreciated!

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Direct

Germans are well known for being highly structured people, and this extends into their business practices. They prefer clear divisions between themselves and others whether at a company or social gathering; such structures may seem rigid to those used to more relaxed working styles; nonetheless it’s essential that everyone respects these policies so they will be treated with courtesy in return.

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At meetings or conferences, it’s advisable to shake hands with all in the room rather than only acknowledging senior members of staff. Furthermore, formal forms of address should be used even with longtime coworkers: men should be addressed as Herr (Mr) while female colleagues should be referred to by Herrin/ Frauin depending on whether you know them personally; similarly email addresses should use both honorifics as well as professional designations.

Negotiations is often an involved and long process; Germans like to have all of the facts before making any decisions; it is wise to be patient as trying to rush things can prove counterproductive; confrontational behaviour or high-pressure tactics will likely not go well either.

Don’t Be Afraid to Be Silent

Germans tend to engage in only substantive conversations in the office and avoid digression, meaning business negotiations may seem abrupt compared to your experience, yet will likely prove more fruitful than expected.

Discuss all relevant aspects of a project or agreement without feeling pressured to change the subject at hand. If a conversation goes off-track, politely remind your colleagues to return to the topic at hand or request to revisit other subjects later.

Hierarchy is an ingrained aspect of Berlin business culture, and it is vitally important that all colleagues know your status clearly. When communicating with male colleagues you should use their surnames followed by “herr or frau”, until you’ve established rapport, with “sie” preferred over less formal forms like du.

Germany follows an established custom of exchanging business cards at the start of every meeting, with English versions written clearly including any honorifics or higher degrees held. Furthermore, when ending meetings it’s customary to tap your knuckles on the tabletop to signify approval – an old German tradition still revered within business communities worldwide. Furthermore, if invited for dinner it is traditional to toast those responsible with either wine or beer to show your gratitude and to show good manners!