Germany: Cultural Advice
by Going Global
When it comes to communication, Germans are direct and may come across as aggressive to people from cultures that are less confrontational. Criticism should not be taken personally. Punctuality is very important to Germans. When unavoidable, calls should be made to explain the situation.
Germans are direct in their communications and can appear aggressive to those who come from less confrontational cultures. Openly-expressed criticism is normally focused on a specific project or problem and should not be taken personally. In general, Germans are not fond of small talk and will not necessarily greet strangers, even if eye contact has been made in an office setting. Germans strongly prefer third-party introductions.
Punctuality is of utmost importance in the German business environment. When a delay cannot be avoided, it is imperative to call ahead and explain the situation.
If You Want to Act Like a Local...
Dining etiquette is Continental, meaning the knife is held in the right hand and the fork in the left. The fork should not be switched to the right hand during eating. Do not begin eating until the host says 'guten appetite.’ Elbows should not rest on the table. To indicate one has finished eating, the knife and fork should lay parallel across the right side of the plate, fork over knife. Common toasts are “Zum Wohl!” (when toasting with wine) and “Prost!” (with beer). Both phrases mean “health.”
When entering a store, it is customary to say “guten tag” ('hello') and “vielen Dank, auf Wiedersehen” (thank you, good-bye) when leaving.
Tipping in restaurants is customary, although this is done mainly by rounding up the bill.
In Germany, the person who extends the invitation will pay for the meal; an attempt to 'fight' over the bill may be taken literally by the German and the guest will end up paying. Note, however, that a mere suggestion to get something to eat together is not considered an invitation.