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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Germany

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Germany: Doing business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Germany

Businesspeople are expected to dress smartly; both men and women are expected to wear suits and men should also wear a tie. English is spoken by many businesspeople, but it is an advantage to have a working knowledge of German, or an interpreter.

Appointments should be made well in advance, particularly in the summer and may be suggested slightly earlier in the day than is often the custom in the UK. Once made, appointment times should be strictly adhered to.

Always use formal titles such as Herr Doktor or Frau Doktor when addressing business contacts and use 'Sie' for 'you'; never assume that first names can be used, this can offend. It is common to answer the telephone by stating your last name, rather than saying 'hello'.

Standard business hours are typically Monday to Friday 0800/0900-1600/1700 hours, although these hours can be less, as Germans have some of the shortest working hours in Western Europe. Many offices close early on Friday afternoon. Business lunches are common (the person making the offer is expected to pay), but breakfast meetings are rare. Socialising with work colleagues is very common, and indeed, usually expected, but seldom involves clients. Visitors should remember that when drinking beer, the common toast is 'Prost', while with wine it is sometimes the more genteel version, 'Zum Wohl'.


Businesspeople in Berlin and Munich sometimes appear more relaxed than their counterparts in other cities, particularly in the north (who favour straight talking), and this can often extend to office etiquette.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800/0900-1600/1700 hours (many close earlier on Fridays).

Economy

Germany boasts the largest economy in Europe. As a result of the global financial crisis it contracted 5% in 2009, resulting in the country's worst recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s. It has since emerged from recession - thanks largely to a recovery in the exports on which it relies so heavily – and has shown real resilience in the storm of the euro crisis. Germany also remains as Europe's leading conventions and exhibitions destination, with large Messen (exhibition and convention centres) in all major cities, and second only to the USA worldwide in terms of events hosted.

Since the German reunification in 1990 and with the former East Germany swallowing up huge sums in modernisation, those employed in the former West still pay a special 'solidarity surcharge' on top of their regular income tax, for supporting the eastern states.

Germany's population is aging, and this, combined with population movement and unemployment rate, can some time place a heavy burden on the welfare system. The country also has a high immigrant population. In addition, Germany has a cumbersome bureaucracy, both at national, state and local levels, and this too places a strain on tax resources.

GDP

US$3.677 trillion (2017).

Main exports

Motor vehicles, machinery, chemicals, computer and electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals, metals, transport equipment, foodstuffs, textiles, rubber and plastic products.

Main imports

Machinery, data processing equipment, vehicles, chemicals, oil and gas, metals, electric equipment, pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, agricultural products.

Main trading partners

USA, France, China, the Netherlands, UK.

Keeping in Touch in Germany

Telephone

With mobile phones so widely used by locals and tourists alike, public payphones are no longer widely available in towns and cities.

Mobile Phone

Mobile network is ubiquitous with T-Mobile and Vodafone being leading providers. Roaming agreements exist with many international mobile phone companies. Coverage is good. It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving. If you're going to be in Germany for a long period of time, consider obtaining a local SIM card.

Internet

Wi-Fi is widely available, often for free in hotels, restaurants, on public transport, airports, train stations and in city centres of bigger cities.

Media

Each of the country's 16 regions regulates its own private and public broadcasting, and operates public TV and radio services. The country has one of the largest and most diverse TV markets in the world. It's also home to some of the world's largest media conglomerates, such as Bertelsmann and Bauer Media Group. Popular newspapers in Germany include BILD, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Welt.

Many major English-language newspapers and international magazines are also available in large cities. Sky Deutschland is a pay-TV operator. ARD and ZDF operate the public national TV channels; RTL and ProSieben operate entertainment channels. Deutsche Welle is the international TV service and operates in a number of different languages; Arte is a Franco-German cultural channel. Deutschlandradio operates national public radio stations, Deutschlandfunk and Deutschlandradio Kultur; Deutsche Welle also broadcasts radio in many languages.

Post

Stamps are available from some hotels, vending machines and post offices.

Post Office hours

Generally Mon-Fri 0900-1800, Sat 0900-1200. Smaller branches may close for lunch.