Cultural Challenges For US Americans Doing Business With Germany
Since Germans are such productive, punctual, and direct business people, US Americans often assume that doing business with Germany is going to be a walk in the park. Yet, there are many cultural differences that can derail a US American-German merger, such as the Daimler Chrysler story, or render US American market entry strategies and negotiations unsuccessful.
Germans’ love for honest, blunt, and openly confrontational behavior often catches US Americans off-guard. This coupled with a tendency to make consensus-based decisions, trying to achieve social fairness, and save the environment can leave US Americans baffled.
When presenting to Germans, make sure you have lots of well-researched facts. Germans love detailed information, have an impressively long attention span, and are highly unappreciative of superficial, humor-filled, attention-grabbing presentations without depth and with unsubstantiated claims. If you fail to fulfill their expectations, you will be grilled with excruciating questions and met with suspicion.
The lengthy decision-making process and the strictly hierarchical and departmentalized flow of information in German companies can also drive US Americans crazy. Be prepared to be patient. The German saying “Was lange währt, wird endlich gut” meaning that things that take a long time will eventually turn out to be good is something to bear in mind.
Proverbs often allow us to catch a glimpse of a country’s culture. Therefore, another German saying: “Erst die Arbeit, dann das Vergüngen” should also be something you are familiar with. It means that one should finish a task or do their work first before engaging in enjoyable free-time activities.
Germans are very sociable and love their free time, but they separate work from private life and need a lot more privacy than you would expect. They also prefer researching everything in detail and finishing one thing before implementing a plan or starting something new. Trying to push them to favor fast over proper is futile, will only draw their scorn, and make them highly unlikely to cooperate.
Apart from these cultural features, the German communication style, leadership style, preferred way of presenting, negotiating and problem-solving, their need for privacy, space, and consensus, their desire for formality and following rules, their love for knowledge and details, and their need to take things seriously can easily derail business negotiations when you come unprepared.
It might even be a good idea to brush up on your table manners, dress and meeting etiquette, and choice of words. American English slang, sports idioms, overly religious statements, putting your feet up on a chair, or eating with only a fork in your right hand will be frowned upon, while your respect for formality, etiquette, and hierarchy as well as speaking a few words of German will be highly appreciated and will go a long way in building good and long-lasting relationships with your German business partners or colleagues.
If you think this is all there is to know about Germans, let me tell you that this article is barely scratching the surface. Learn more by watching the webinar recording above, or why not book a free introductory session to discuss your specific challenges when doing business with Germany? I am happy to talk to you.