Ever wondered how Germany differs from the rest of Europe in terms of its business practices? Knowing how to deal with clients across Europe can be difficult when you take into account the vast range of cultures we have. In order to make things a bit simpler, we’ve looked at how the rest of Europe compares when it comes to German business etiquette.
Annual Leave (vs Malta)
Malta & Luxembourg
In Malta, every worker is entitled to paid annual leave of at least 26 working days calculated on the basis of a 40-hour working week and 8-hour working day. Workers are also entitled to 14 paid public holidays.
Luxembourg follows behind with a minimum of 37 days of paid leave (including national holidays) depending on whether you are working in the public or private sector, as well as your age. You may also be granted extraordinary paid leave – which is not deducted from the annual leave allowance if taken – in certain personal circumstances. This can be in cases of a family death to moving house.
By law, Germans are entitled to the minimum statutory annual holiday entitlement of 20 days based on a five-day working week. However, it is very common that employers grant more paid holiday; between 27 and 30 days’ paid holiday. Germans also celebrate 10-13 public holidays, depending on which state you are in (Bavaria has the most).
Greetings (vs Italy)
French, Belgian and Southern Europeans are in general a lot more warm in terms of their greetings. They can range from anywhere from one kiss to 4! Although this is not always appropriate in business settings, it is a much more frequent occurrence than in Germany.
A handshake is as far as physical interaction goes in German business etiquette. Unlike countries such as France, Spain and Italy, German’s are much more reserved when it comes to greetings. One of the best examples of this was when Bush creeped out Angela Merkel with a back rub:
Punctuality (vs Italy)
Italians are well known for the little importance they place on punctuality and strict organisation. If you find yourself working with an Italian, be prepared for having to wait a little longer than you would your fellow German businesspeople. It’s particularly important Germans don’t take this as a sign of disrespect, but a cultural difference.
German business etiquette has been heavily influenced by their industrial past. As a nation they are well known for their punctuality and rigorous organisational skills. This extends from their working life into their personal life too. Even when it comes to arriving at the office, 10 minutes early is on time, on time is late, and late is unthinkable!
Strict business hours (vs France)
France and Germany share a similarity in the way they respect the end of the business day and the start of their personal life. Both countries have brought rules into effect that states you are legally allowed to ignore any business calls and texts outside of business hours.
As of 2017, French workers have the “right to disconnect” from work related calls and emails outside of their working day. The Ministry of Labor explained: “These measures are designed to ensure respect for rest periods and … balance between work and family and personal life.” This is not a surprising move from France, which offers generous holiday, sick and protest leave in order to achieve a healthy work/life balance.
In Germany, this has not become a law for all companies, however many companies, such as Volkswagen, have banned contact outside of work hours. The country’s labour ministry made similar moves, and Ursula von der Leyen, the labour minister, stated “technology should not be allowed to control us and dominate our lives. We should control technology.”
Dress code (vs UK)
Dressing for business in the UK (particularly in the big cities such as London or Birmingham) it is important that you keep your clothing smart. It is not out of place to be wearing a suit. Dark colours (i.e. black, grey and navy) are the most appropriate, and denim is never acceptable.
Depending on what sector you work in, the German business etiquette when it comes to work attire can be pretty casual. For example, start ups, IT companies and advertising agencies tend to stray from the suits into more trendy clothing. However, if you are working in sectors such as law or finance, dressing smart is very important and anything else would look out of place.
Do you have any experience working in these countries? How do you think Germany compares?