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First impression

You will frequently meet new people in your professional life – in your new department, during appointments with customers and at conferences. In Germany, great importance is placed on greeting and addressing people correctly.

Greeting

The basic rule at the workplace is that you first of all greet the people who are hierarchically superior to you. These include, for example, older colleagues, as well as customers. Depending on the time of day, you can greet them with a friendly and clearly audible “Guten Morgen", “Guten Tag” or “Guten Abend”. If you are greeted by colleagues or a boss – in the company corridor or on the way to work, for example – always return the greeting. Not to greet someone is considered extremely impolite in Germany. And don’t be shy: look your interlocutor in the eye in a friendly manner. That will not be perceived as pushy; it just shows that you are paying attention to them.

In Germany, you will often be greeted with a handshake. If someone holds out their hand in greeting, respond with a short, firm handshake with your right hand. At the same time, pay attention to your body language and don't put your left hand in your trousers pocket, for example.

First contact

When you meet someone for the first time, introduce yourself briefly with your first and last name. Your interlocutor will then do the same in return. To get the small talk going, you can also mention your position in the company. That provides an opportunity to strike up a conversation and get to know one another better. In Germany, people usually use the “Sie” form of address at work.

If you are taking part in a meeting or business negotiations, when you enter the meeting room first of all greet all the attendees already present. Inversely, it is considered polite – when meeting customers, for example – to stand up to greet arriving attendees.

If you bring a new colleague to a meeting or business appointment, do the introductions yourself to make it easier for him or her. When doing so, give their full name (first and last names) and also name their academic title and their position in the company.

Body language

Your body language reveals a lot about you – how you're feeling at a given moment, and whether you are going to be perceived as interested or tired. Depending on people's cultural environment, different gestures and postures can mean different things.

While physical proximity in some (business) cultures can signal liking and belonging, in the business sphere in Germany value is placed on physical distance. Your interlocutors will appreciate a distance of a good arm’s length. Meet them with respect and politeness. You can express this quite simply through your body language: a friendly facial expression, an erect posture turned towards them and eye contact express your interest. Inversely, it is considered impolite to avoid eye contact during a conversation or discussion or to glance constantly at your mobile phone, tablet or documents.

Information on the internet

Young Germany

You’ll find a few tips on business etiquette here (English)
 

Federal Ministry of the Interior

Here you’ll find a guide to appropriate forms of address in business communications (German)

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