The basic principle in business life is that you greet people first who are in rank above you. These include, for example, superiors, older colleagues, but also customers. Depending on the time of day, you can say hello with a friendly and clearly audible “Good morning”, “Good day” or “Good evening”. If you are greeted by colleagues or your boss – for example in the corridor in your company or on the way to work – you always say hello back. Not to greet is considered very impolite in Germany. And don’t be shy: look your counterpart in the eye in a friendly manner. That doesn’t seem intrusive, but rather signals your attention.
In Germany you are often greeted with a handshake. If your hand is held out to greet you, you reciprocate the offer with a short, firm handshake with your right hand. Pay attention to your body language and do not put your left hand in your pocket, for example.
The first contact
The first time you meet someone, introduce yourself briefly with your first and last name. In return, the person you are speaking to will introduce themselves. To make the small talk easier, you can also state your position in the company. This gives you the opportunity to start a conversation and get to know you better. In Germany it is common practice to do business.
If you take part in a meeting or a business negotiation and enter the conference room, greet all participants who are already present first. On the other hand, it is considered polite – for example when dealing with customers – that you stand up to greet a participant when a participant arrives.
If you bring a new colleague to a meeting or business appointment, take over the introduction to make it easier for him or her to get started. Include the full name (first and last name) and, if applicable, the academic title of the person as well as his or her position in the company.
Your body language reveals a lot about you – how you are doing, whether you are perceived as interested or tired. Different gestures and postures can – depending on the culture – have different meanings.
While physical closeness in some (business) cultures signals sympathy and belonging, in German business life emphasis is placed on physical distance. Your interlocutors will appreciate a good arm’s length. Treat them with respect and courtesy. You can express this very easily with your body language: a friendly facial expression, an upright and facing posture and eye contact express your interest. On the other hand, it is considered impolite to avoid eye contact during a conversation or a meeting or to constantly look at the cell phone, tablet or other documents.