Etiquette in everyday working life
In your new job you will come into contact with many German colleagues and customers. With the following tips, you will succeed in both verbal and non-verbal communication.
Work and meeting
culture in the office
More and more employers in Germany are offering flexible working hours. If you have fixed working hours, you should definitely pay attention to punctuality. If you are late, give your colleague a quick call and apologize.
It is also important to be on time at meetings or work sessions. A fixed start and end time is part of the German meeting culture. There is also a tendency in Germany to insist on adhering to the agenda at meetings.
Etiquette in the workplace
In the world of work, a lot of importance is attached to the correct salutation and title of a person. For example, if you interact with older people or with your superiors, you should pay attention to the correct form of address.
In professional life, the “you” always has priority. If the person you are speaking to has a title, for example, a doctorate, you should address them with this title plus their last name. For example, say: “Herr Doktor Müller” or “Frau Doktor Müller”. In Germany, speaking by first name and using the Duzen are generally reserved for friends and family. However, if a colleague offers you the “you” or allows you to omit the doctorate title, you should accept this. He or she tries to be extra friendly by doing this. In the beginning, look at how people introduce themselves and follow their example.
Please note: Unlike in many other countries, “Duzen” at work in Germany does not necessarily mean that a friendly relationship has to develop. For many Germans, private and professional life are still strictly separated from one another.
The communication style in Germany is generally seen as direct, emotions rarely play a role in conversations. So don’t feel offended if your colleagues express their concern or opinion very quickly in the conversation without much small talk. Since your colleagues communicate with you directly, they will appreciate it if you also express yourself clearly.
Certain rules of conduct must also be observed when making phone calls: Remember to use your last name when you answer the phone. You should also be polite when calling someone who does not know you. In Germany you should generally see your counterpart.
In Germany it is unusual to go to other colleagues’ offices unannounced to discuss important topics. If unexpected urgent questions arise that need to be decided on at short notice, it is best to ask your colleagues in advance by phone or email whether they are ready to talk.
Small talk and interaction in a casual atmosphere
In Germany, personal relationships at work take a long time to develop. Therefore, at first glance, it doesn’t always seem easy to find the right topic of conversation. Over time, you’ll develop a feel for casual small talk. Since many Germans are not gifted small talkers, you enrich the general working atmosphere and at the same time the relationship with your colleagues.
The general way in Germany to greet people is to say “Hello” or “Guten Tag”. If you are in Bavaria, instead of “Hello”, “Grüß Gott” is very appropriate. In northern Germany, you can address people with the local greeting “Moin Moin”.
Conduct in conversation
Small talk with Germans is not about portraying yourself as particularly funny or educated. Rather, it is about talking to other people in a friendly way and establishing contact through the conversation. Small talk provides relaxation, especially on professional occasions. So you better not start churning out jokes. Just take a few minutes back and listen carefully. Then get involved in the conversation and refer to the statements made by your counterpart.
Germans like to talk about so-called “everyday topics” during small talk. These topics are named because anyone can talk about them for hours. These topics include, for example, the weather, travel, sports or other hobbies. You should try to avoid controversial topics. This includes politics and religion as well as questions about the salary or income of the people you are talking to. These belong more in conversations with close friends. When making small talk, you should also ensure that you are at a physical distance and that you use an appropriate tone in relation to your interlocutors. Behavioral forms such as hugging another person and kissing on the cheek are reserved for friends and family members and are therefore usually not appropriate in work situations.
And at company parties?
Small celebrations in the company and excursions are part of the corporate culture in Germany. This includes, for example, the annual Christmas party with colleagues. In general, when it comes to excursions and company parties, the focus is on the social aspect and togetherness. Professional issues rarely play a role on these occasions. Failure to take part in company outings and celebrations can, under certain circumstances, be interpreted as a lack of interest in the team or the company.
In addition to the annual company celebrations, a carnival celebration also takes place in the company in spring, depending on the region. Especially in the carnival strongholds on the Rhine and Main, it is quite common to hold a small celebration in the company. While it can be normal in Cologne for colleagues to appear disguised in the office during Carnival, such behavior would be inappropriate in another region, such as Bavaria.