A list of Don’ts and Dos is always somewhat stereotypic. Following rules will never replace communicative competencies. Be open-minded, tolerant, respectful and polite. However, here are a few important points compiled from several lists to be found in the Internet:
- A person's title is important, though more so in business communication rather than in private meetings. DO use a person's title and surname until invited to use their first name. Say Herr (Mister) or Frau (Mrs.) and the person's title and surname.
- Do use the formal form (“Sie”, similar the French “vous”) if you address people in business life always, and in private life if you address people older than you or older than 35. It’s the right of the older one to invite the younger to use the informal “Du”.
- Shake hands with everyone upon entering a room, including children. Take the other hand out of your pocket and look into the person's eyes.
- For business live we recommend to have a intensive look at the “Corporate Culture” section of the following document: http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_de.htm. Here an extract made for our purposes:
> Germans take punctuality for business meetings and social occasions seriously. Tardiness is viewed as thoughtless and rude. Call with an explanation if you are delayed.
> Rank is very important in business. Never set up a meeting for a lower ranked company employee to meet with a higher ranked person.
> The primary purpose of a first meeting is to get to know one another and to evaluate the person, to gain trust, and the check chemistry.
> Meetings are often formal and scheduled weeks in advance.
> Germans generally discuss business after a few minutes of general discussion.
> Arrive at meetings well prepared. Avoid hard-sell tactics or surprise.
> Germans take business very seriously. Levity is not common in the workplace.
> Business cards in English are acceptable.
> Germans are competitive, ambitious and hard bargainers.
> Germans value their privacy. They tend to keep their office doors closed. Always knock on doors before entering.
> Objective criticism isn't given or received easily. Compliments are seldom given for work product.
> Strict vertical hierarchy exists. Power is held by a small number of people at the top. Deference is given to authority. Subordinates rarely contradict or criticize the boss publicly.
> Organization is logical, methodical and compartmentalized with procedures and routines done "by the book."
> Decision making is slow with thorough analysis of all facts.
> Germans are not comfortable handling the unexpected. Plans are cautious with fallback positions, contingency plans, and comprehensive action steps -- carried out to the letter.
> Germans produce massive written communications to elaborate on and confirm discussions.
> Written or spoken presentations should be specific, factual, technical and realistic.
> Reports, briefings and presentations should be backed up by facts, figures, tables and charts.
> Germans have an aversion to divergent opinions, but will negotiate and debate an issue fervently.
> Remain silent if the floor has not been given to you or if you are not prepared to make an informed contribution.
> Decisions are often debated informally and are generally made before meetings with compliance rather than consensus expected in the meeting.
> Always deliver information, products, proposals, etc., to clients on time.
> Do not call a German at home unless it is an emergency.
- The rest of the document (http://www.ediplomat.com/np/cultural_etiquette/ce_de.htm) is also worth to be read though obviously written for diplomats, which means: a little bit more formal than necessary. But you don’t do anything wrong if you follow the rules.
- Here are a few more or less funny lists for everyday use:
> http://www.vayama.com/etiquette/germany/ (It’s not true what he/she writes about German wine as a gift, and we don’t know a lot of Germans who are allowed to spend more than three weeks of vacation in a row, but all in all the list is worth to be read. Have a closer look at the chapter “business meeting”.
> http://internship2industry.eu/tools/DosDontsGermany.pdf (The document is made especially forinternships in Germany. It’s not wrong, but not absolutely up-to-date. It’s not mandatory, but recommended to carry a passport. Don’t say “Mahlzeit”, never. If you want to be more formal say “Zum Wohl” instead of “Prost”.)
> http://www.germanytravelguide.co.uk/traveling-to-germany-dos-and-donts/ (Good orientation, and politely written.)
> http://www.lonelyplanet.com/europe/travel-tips-and-articles/5515 (A very short list for everyday quick use.)