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Business etiquette: the UK and Germany

There are many differences between Germany and the UK, but there are just as many similarities. Even though these countries are not that far away from each other, they can be somehow totally different, especially when it comes to business etiquette.  

Greeting procedures may vary depending on the circumstances of the meeting: giving a handshake is the most common and typical way of greeting someone before a business meeting. However it is not expected anymore at subsequent meetings in the United Kingdom. In Germany, you will greet your business partners and even your colleagues with a firm handshake whenever you meet them.

In the UK, most people use honorifics to address someone, while in Germany there are two different ways to use the common “you”. If you happen to meet someone who has a higher position than you or who is older, then you’re supposed to use the formal you (“Sie”). On the other hand, when you’re meeting someone who has a lower position than you, who is younger or simply offered it to you, you’re allowed to use the informal you (“Du”). So if you’re planning on doing business in the German, it is really important that you use the right title. Also, the British tend to offer you to call them by their first names, while most Germans won’t.

When it comes to their talking habits, the German and the British are quite similar. Both are very straightforward and strict. While talking to someone they know well, their style may be more informal, although they are reserved in a professional environment.

Also,  the British can be quite formal and sometimes they’d rather work with people and companies they are familiar with. Germans, however, like to build new relationships and don’t hesitate to meet new people. Both Germans and Brits have long-lasting relationships, and although Germans like to build new relationships they still care for the longest ones they have.

Germans value forward thinking, which explains why they are considered as the masters of planning.  The British are very time-conscious as well, but it often seems like they are in a rush. In fact, they try to avoid losing time, which is a quality in an economic world. Brits often live according to the motto “time is money”.

Work and private life are strictly separated in Germany but also in England, even though Brits tend to let their personal life influence their work, so it is not a very formal work environment.

There are many differences between Germany’s and the United Kingdom’s business etiquettes, although few people are aware of it. It is always rewarding to spend some time in the country you intend to do business in and learn more about the local culture.

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