Germany is a country that has an image of professionalism, precise engineering and an almost regimental way of doing things. After World War II Germany had to rebuild itself as a nation and part of what has become an almost perfectionist way of working was what saw the country grow and emerge from a lost war victorious. Today the strict and precise way of doing things is still important and appreciating this will certainly go a long way in ensuring your business success in the powerhouse of Europe.
Language plays an important part when doing business in Germany, and despite the fact that many Germans speak English or another language, doing business well in Germany is made considerably better, easier and a great deal more successful, when German is spoken. The technicalities of business, is where having a grasp of the German language is more than just useful, but very much a necessity. Getting into the finer details of a transaction, understanding plans or a contract in German can be lost in translation when being explained in a language other than the native. German is a very descriptive language, and in contracts especially ambiguities can be easily avoided whereas there may not be a word or phrase that describes it well in any other language.
There is, as always, a degree of respect that is gained by speaking German when doing business in Germany, and that respect is taken further by taking careful note of being on time. Punctuality is on par with understanding the language, along with a number of other aspects, that can be easily avoided or better understood. Mannerisms and hyperbole, saying things that sound too good to be true are important to understand and when doing business, Germans prefer to stick to the facts, focus on the job at hand, and get the job done to the best of or better than their ability.
Germans are very direct communicators, and by speaking and using the language, this becomes almost natural for the non-native speaker who will soon adjust to the way of doing things. A sense of pride is inherent in Germans, and a strict hierarchy of things is clear to see in the way Germans do business. Small talk is not common when doing business in Germany, but proper and correct introductions in the mother German language go a long way in setting the tone. When it comes to choosing a partner, a German company will invariably choose a company or representative that speaks German. Not only does this make communication easier, but it allows for any discussions to expand beyond the initial contracts because the people being worked with, receive a generally higher level of respect than non-German speakers.
Don’t just assume that your German counterpart will speak English, more than likely he or she will, but do your best to converse in German – German people are very understanding and will help you find the right words because they can see you making an attempt.
These blogs are about learning a foreign language and utilising that skill to forward your professional path.