Every nation has its own unique set of cultural dos and don’ts. Before I visit any country, I always make a point of researching a few basic techniques before setting foot on their soil. In some countries, this may not be so esteemed, but in others such as China or Japan, negligence of some basic rules can raise eyebrows. In Europe I feel that Germany is no exception to this.
Being comfortable and knowledgeable about the customs, etiquette, and to some extent the laws prevalent in this region, will help prevent embarrassment and blunders. I think it is an excellent idea to do some home-work and research thoroughly all the information possible so that everything can be handled tactfully. Germany is the third largest economy in the world and a powerful platform for international business.
When introduced to a person, just shake hands and keep at arms length. Moreover, maintain direct eye contact. It is considered impolite if you do not do so. Maintaining eye contact as long as the person is talking to you is good manners, depending on what sort of situation you are in, if it is romantic or business. When introduced to a group of people, wait for the dinner host to introduce you and shake hands with everybody; women, men and even children, also try and refer to them by name. Only remarkably close friends and family members greet each other with a hug or kiss on the cheek.
When talking in the German language, you address the older generation by the word ‘Sie’. Only friends refer to each other as ‘du’ as it is used as an informal tone, and ‘sei’ signifies respect of an older person. You can start off by leaning these few elementary things and then learn other more serious stuff.
Avoid greeting people with ‘how are you’, unless you want to spend the next thirty minutes listening to their personal problems, and some of the locals can open up to you, especially if you are in the pub having a pint. Early morning greetings like, ‘good morning’ in German, like ‘Guten tag’ will suffice for any office-workers. Try to keep the conversation neutral and objective, especially for a first time meeting. Also, unless you’re proficient inthe German language, make sure to take your pocket phrase bookeverywhere you go, that is unless you have the budget to hire a professional translation agency to follow you around everywhere!
By Kirsty S