Business culture

in Germany


  • Germans take punctuality seriously. If you are running late, call in advance to let your German counterpart know.
  • People enter a meeting in order of importance, the highest ranking person arriving first and so on. The same goes for introductions.
  • If you are not hosting the meeting, wait to be directed where to sit.
  • A small amount of social conversation may begin the meeting, but expect a German to get down to business very quickly.
  • Initially, meetings will likely be formal with the primary purpose of determining familiarity and trustworthiness. They will be less concerned with getting to know you personally and more interested in your credentials, but formality tends to relax as negotiations progress.
  • Meetings have strict agendas, both in regard to time frame and the goal of the meeting.
  • All parties are expected to participate in discussion an equal amount.
  • Expect discussion to be well thought-out. Germans are unlikely to air ideas that are not fully formed and instead tend to speak their mind once they have already refined their opinion.
  • Much time is spent on a comprehensive explanation of all components of an agreement. This can seem fastidious, but this is to ensure thorough understanding on all ends.
  • Although Germans are good listeners, you may find that they are not easily persuaded.
  • Once final decisions are agreed upon, they are written into documents that explain each plan of action in detail.
  • Knocking on the table with one’s knuckles at the end of a meeting signals approval of an agreement and the conclusion of the meeting.

Plan and Target Oriented

Germans generally aim to find the most efficient way of achieving the finest quality outcome. They take great care to plan methodically and thus spend much time deliberating and scrutinising all factors of a decision. In business, they ensure the transparency of all courses of action so that it can be analysed and controlled in accordance with protocol. If you make any understatements or innuendos regarding such matters, expect them to ask you for clarification. Furthermore, once the final and best decision has been reached, they will show very little flexibility. From then on, it is generally expected that the plan agreed upon be adhered to with precision and consistency.

Task Oriented over Relationship Oriented

Business relationships are often kept formal as many Germans do not always feel the necessity to build personal relationships before doing business. They will be more interested in your experience, credentials and the longevity of your company. Depending on the industry, business is seen as strictly professional with no association to one’s personal life.


As a part of this business-only mindset, Germans may find excessively polite language and customs to be unnecessary and obstructive to whatever task is at hand. Whereas in other cultures, people may build rapport before easing into asking the controversial questions, Germans expect to be asked the most difficult and pressing questions first. This is not because they are rude. While they are still courteous, they often arrive straight to their point without euphemism. In the same way, a German will most likely openly disagree with you and point out your errors instead of speaking ambiguously for reasons of diplomacy and

. From their standpoint, softening one’s words convolutes both meaning and the process of negotiation. Despite this strictly business approach, Germans are open to cultivating business friendships – especially in the long term. They enjoy building rapport as long as it doesn’t complicate business


  • Germans commonly see themselves as critical thinkers, constantly asking questions and seeking new perspectives to guide their decision-making. They can be flexible and will speak out to suggest a new idea if they believe there’s a better way. 
  • You may find that a German company has a well-founded confidence in their own way of doing things. This can come across as them being overly sure of themselves. Avoid interpreting this as meaning that they are closed-off to new ideas.
  • Workplaces in Germany are hierarchical based on experience and position. Although they respect those in authority, they dislike control or leadership that is solely based on status as opposed to expertise.
  • Germans display a great amount of respect for those with education and experience, and will seek to know how your position relates to theirs.
  • Expect a German to closely adhere to any regulations or rules that relate to the task. They may be hesitant to do work with those who show a tendency to cut corners.
  • When doing business, Germans may develop new binding protocols during negotiations to avoid uncertainty and inconsistency, as well as to assure your reliability.
  • When negotiating, written communication is used to record discussions and uphold agreements.
  • Displays of passionate emotion, exaggerations or promises that sound too good to be true are likely to make Germans hesitant or suspicious of doing business with you.

Author : Scroope, Chara. (2019).  The Cultural Atlas