Business Mentality

Detailed planning has enormous value in German culture and is a principal characteristic of German business co-operation. This can turn out to be a smooth marriage between partners or lead to one partner feeling hen-pecked by the other. Again, as with gift giving [see above], all cultures rely on exchanging and clarifying details to move a project forward. It is rather a question of how much detail at what point. Therefore, as with all points where priorities and technical expectations differ significantly between parties, it is essential that both sides do their homework beforehand and perhaps schedule a few informal initial mini-meetings to address these issues and set some basic ground rules that everyone can agree on.


Having said all that, ensure you have plenty of data and other empirical evidence to support your proposals and arguments. If you are conducting the meeting in German, keep the language simple and direct. Even when you think you sound much more direct than you would ever be in your own native language, keep in mind that this will not likely be the case for German ears. [Note that American business English tends to be very direct, and therefore may not differ much in tone from the general usage of German.] In fact, too much diplomatic indirectness will be confusing and irritating for Germans and can give the impression of insincerity and beating around the bush. Exaggerated and overly-dramatic communication styles can also inspire distrust and caution.


When you are preparing promotional or presentation material, be aware that German businesspeople are traditionally less impressed by glitzy advertising, illustrations, and memorable slogans. Brochures aimed at the German market are often more serious in tone, provide substantially more technical data, and make claims that can be proven by hard facts and examples. Don’t worry about producing a brochure that seems lengthy or tedious; if the information is pertinent, especially for a technical product, your German counterparts will be inclined to read the whole thing. Moreover, they will expect your product to conform exactly to the description you have given.


Germans will sometimes look for deficiencies in your products or services and will quite openly draw your attention to them if they in any way do not correspond to your claims. This is one of the toughest aspects of German communication behavior you will encounter, in personal or professional contact with Germans. This form of direct disagreement and criticism is possible in social interactions, not because people don’t feel uncomfortable when they hear it, but because such a statement is based on objective, impersonal truths. Ultimately, the value lies in pointing out a mistake to someone so that it can be corrected. This is a characteristic “low context” communication behaviour that works because it is based on isolating and clarifying objective facts. (via)

Read in the upcoming part: “Negotiations and Decision Making”


Source: Executive Planet