Business etiquette in Germany can be quite different than the rest of the world. There are cultural nuances you should know before you begin your networking adventure, whether you are looking for a job or new German friends! Utilise these 5 tips to make your networking a success:
1. A handshake with direct eye contact is normal when first meeting someone.
Titles are taken very seriously in Germany so you should always address people with the polite form, using 'Herr' and 'Frau' and their last name until you know them better. Follow the other person's lead on when you change over to the more informal 'Du' form using their first names. This normally happens after a relationship has been well-established.
2. Germans prefer a solid separation between their work and personal lives.
This can make networking for a job in a social setting a bit tricky. When first meeting someone in a social setting, do not be offended if they do not discuss their jobs right away. Work on making a personal connection with them. Good topics of conversation are family, vacations and their homes and gardens. Germans also like to talk about driving and cars.
3. In major German cities, it is hard to go anywhere without seeing a clock...many clocks, actually!
Time is of great importance in this country and punctuality is often equated with honesty and good manners. Make sure you are on time to any scheduled meetings, events / get-togethers or interviews. It is better to arrive a bit early so you are relaxed and ready to talk. If you can not arrive on time, notify your contact immediately.
4. The German people tend to be very direct in their speech and thought.
To an expat, this may seem a bit rude or daunting. Because they are reserved in nature, they often come across as uncaring, which is far from the truth. This is a normal way for them to communicate. Once you get used to the direct communication and their unique sense of humour, conversations will become much easier.
5. There are many rules, processes and regulations in Germany, especially in the business world.
Business professionals like to live by the rules and place great value in them. Be sure to be aware of what rules apply to you and follow them. You will be seen in a more positive light.
Although it is not necessary to make personal relationships with people before you can easily work with them in Germany, having that personal connection can enhance your ability to facilitate a strong business relationship. The relationships you form will be based on shared qualities, experiences and positive work ethics that others observe in you.
Deciding factors that Germans value in determining mutual compatibility include:
You may wish to consider some of the following networking opportunities as a way to expand your professional network in Germany:
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