German Communication Styles

Germans put truth and directness before diplomacy, believing that the fact is the important issue and that personal emotions should not deflect the truth from being spoken.

This directness can be interpreted by certain cultures (U.K, Japan, Korea etc.) as rudeness. It should be noted, however, that direct speaking is seen in Germany as a sign of respect and a fundamental in the search for the correct answer to a particular problem.

This directness in communication style also manifests itself in a lack of self-deprecation and coded language. A charge of arrogance is sometimes levelled at German businessmen and, although there is great pride taken in German achievements, this perceived arrogance is more a misinterpretation of direct speech. Germans will give a factual rendition of their own capabilities, which is not the same as arrogance. You can generally take a German at his word on these matters whereas certain other cultures will be far vaguer in their use of language.

Much is made of the lack of humour in evidence in Germany. It is certainly not true to say that Germans lack a sense of humour. As with all cultures, they have a highly developed sense of humour. The differences lie in positioning and style. There is a time and a place for humour in Germany and its place is not so much during the serious business of business. The more serious a situation, the more seriousness is called for. It is also important to remember that humour does not always or even very often travel successfully. What is funny in one culture can come across as nonsense in another.

Presentations are expected to be supported with a lot more specific detail than might be felt necessary in countries such as the US or the UK. Lack of supporting detail can severely weaken the credibility of an argument.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Germany

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Germany continues to retain its position as the driving force of the European economy. It holds a pre-eminent position within the massive economic and political block that is the European Union and it shows no signs of relinquishing its position of leadership and power anytime soon.

Possibly aided by a weakened Euro, Germany is the archetypal successful modern economy with a massively effective export engine at its core. German engineering and ingenuity finds its way to all corners of the world with those exports competing from a quality angle rather than on a price basis. Whatever Germany is doing, however it is doing it – it is extremely successful and, therefore, well worth studying.

On the flip side, Germany is also a highly attractive market for your products and services and if you are not currently doing business in Germany you should certainly consider doing so. Germany has a large sophisticated consumer base with high levels of disposable income and a large manufacturing base looking for components, inspiration and expertise.

One of the keys to success when doing business in Germany is an ability to understand German business culture and the profound impact that the local business culture has when interacting with German colleagues or clients. Lack of preparation could cost you dearly; inattention to detail could result in lost opportunities. Do your homework before engaging in Germany – it’s a must.
This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of German business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips