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DOING BUSINESS IN GERMANY Like many other northern Europeans Germans tend to take a deal-focused low-context and monochronic approach to doing business North Americans and Australians find Germans relatively formal southern Europeans often describe them as reserved and most Asians consider them very direct Of course there are important northsouth and eastwest differences in German business customs not to mention significant individual variations Keeping this in mind the following profile describes the important general tendencies in business behavior you are likely to encounter whether your meeting takes place in Hamburg or Munich Leipzig or Cologne Language of Business Many German managers are comfortable conducting business in foreign languages especially English Larger companies usually have competent English speakers on staff However since the language of business is the language of the customer a professional export sales team should include a fluent speaker of German If the purpose of your meeting is to negotiate a purchase a joint venture or strategic alliance check with your counterparts about the possible need for an interpreter Making the Initial Contact Banks play a powerful role in the German business world Since it is always useful to have a referral you may want to ask your international bank to arrange an introduction However in contrast with more relationship-focused business cultures such as Japan Korea Brazil or Saudi Arabia making direct contact is also a viable option in Germany Send a letter in good business German along with basic information about your company and the purpose of the meeting Request an appointment with two to three weeks advance notice If you are making a cold approach it would be appropriate to address correspondence to the department concerned rather than to a specific individual Once you have been introduced or have a referral you may address your letter to the appropriate person If you do not speak the language
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