Doing Business in Germany – Business Etiquette
Culture influences language and language, in turn, influences culture. This happens in ways both obvious and almost imperceptible. TJC Global understands that being fluent in a language also means being fluent in the subtleties and intricacies of the culture and business etiquette associated with it. To ensure that no embarrassing misunderstandings occur in a professional context, all our translators and interpreters are experts in the business culture and etiquette associated with the languages they work with.
If you require translation or interpreting assistance of any kind in Germany or anywhere else, please use the FREE QUOTE SYSTEM on the right-hand side of the page or contact us.
Meetings tend to be formal, with a brief and firm handshake to everyone in the room. Titles denote repsect, and as such are extremely important – you should wait until advised before using an acquaintance’s first name, using instead their surname and the appropriate title – for example Herr or Frau. Gifts such as yellow roses or wine are always well received, although you should be careful to select imported bottles, for example from France or Italy. If invited to someone’s house you should aim to be on time, and always contact them if you are going to be more than fifteen minutes late. Cutlery is used in the Continental tradition, and common toasts include, for wine: Zum Wohl!, and for beer: Prost! both of which must be said while holding eye-contact with the other person. It is also considered very impolite to begin eating before everyone is ready and it is common practice to begin a meal by saying: Guten Appetit! (the equivalent of the French: Bon Appetit) – ‘enjoy your meal!’. A handwritten note the next day addressed to the hostess thanking them is appropriate in most instances.
Germans display great reverence before people of authority, and always take into account the qualifications and expertise of the person they are dealing with. There is no open-door policy in offices, you should knock and wait to be invited to enter. Communication is formal and often direct to the point of bluntness to someone not used to dealing with business in this way. Like many other European languages, there is both an informal and a formal means of address in the second person. The word for ‘You’ is informally ‘Du’ but in a business context (and as a means of showing respect in any context), the more formal ‘Sie’ is used to address another person. This pronoun also changes the way the verb is conjugated and can be confusing for new speakers of German. This rule must be observed until one person invites the other to be ‘per Du’ or to ‘mich duzen’ – to call them ‘Du’ instead. This shift also signifies being on a first name basis with someone – but you should still refer to this person by their last name when speaking to others.
There is an emphasis on written forms of communication, as a way of both communicating information and also providing a record of business negotiations.
Appointments are essential and should be made well in advance, and punctuality is taken incredibly seriously. It is polite to maintain eye contact and respect the level of formality initiated by the person you are having the meeting with – it will often take a few introductory appointments to get to know the person. Meetings keep to very strict agenda, with specified start and end times. Remember that business is hierarchical, with key decisions made by the people at the top of the company. Decisions will be laid out and you will be expected to follow the next stages of negotiations to the letter, adhering to the formality always implicit in German business. It is custom at the end of meetings for some people to tap their knuckles on the tabletop, and the highest ranked person enters and leaves the room first, with men entering and leaving before women.
Business dress is not flashy, it should be understated, formal and always appropriate.
For men, dark coloured business suits are best, and for women either business suits or conservative dresses.
What forms of interpretation can TJC Global provide for business?
Video/videoconference interpreting: (also Video Remote Interpreting available) TJC provides language interpreting services to support events such as business discussions, conferences, legal/court/arbitration/litigation, and other online business interactions in the industry during these challenging times.
Participants can communicate via video or voice calls using laptops, smartphones, tablets etc. These can be recorded should you wish to take minutes. O r professionally qualified interpreters can join your online virtual meeting, event, or proceeding, for example, and interpret remotely in the language pairing you require to facilitate smooth communication between all parties.
Telephone/teleconference interpreting is a practical way to bridge any language barriers. T e interpreter is either located remotely (away from either party) or is with one of the parties. In both cases, they deliver interpreting services through telephone conferencing.
Telephone interpretation is helpful for clients who cannot travel to their counterparts’ countries but still wish, for example, to hold business discussions or communicate progress updates. At TJC Global, we are pleased to provide professionally qualified interpreters worldwide in almost any selected language combination.
Simultaneous interpreting (also available with Video Remote Interpretation (VRI))
is used for international conferences, critical business discussions, seminars & symposiums. In this case, two to three interpreters are usually situated in a booth, away from the audience, who take turns to interpret at high speed, changing over every 15-20 minutes to avoid fatigue.
The interpreters use headsets to listen to the speaker’s message and repeat it immediately (practically “simultaneously”) in the target language to benefit relevant audience members.
Consecutive interpreting (also available with Video Remote Interpretation (VRI)) is the most common type. It is used for business discussions, negotiations, contract exchanges, commercial, legal, technical meetings, medical or court hearings or onsite inspections. T e interpreter listens to the speaker, often making notes, and delivers the meaning in the target language afterwards.
The interpreter may wait until a pause or the end, at which point they deliver a translation relatively quickly. Consecutive interpreting may also be used at conferences for panel discussions, Q&A sessions or private discussions between parties – at a stand or elsewhere.
Looking for translation or interpreting assistance ?
TJC Global provides specialist interpreting and translation services in various specialist fields. Whatever your requirement, we can find the right linguist to assist you. If your industry or project type is not listed here, please contact us directly with your enquiry.
Our language specialists utilise their knowledge of subject-specific terminology to deliver precise, unambiguous translations, whatever the context – enabling you to communicate effectively with the rest of the world. We are also able to adapt to almost any type of project.
What to do next?
Please use the Quick Quote system for a quote for interpreting services or a related inquiry.
If you would like more information about our language services, please contact us.