Doing business with Germans can be a barrage of rules and regulations. It may seem daunting, but adhering to them can make many things a lot easier.
In a business environment, Germans — and Germans from the north in particular — tend to be straightforward and formal. Doing business in Hamburg is typically all about order, structure and precision. The private and the public spheres usually don't mix, so informal deals among friends or acquaintances are frowned upon. Of course, in a hip Schanzenviertel design agency, things might be different, but in a conventional business atmosphere you are well-advised to keep the following points in mind:
No matter what, show up on time! Anything else will make a disastrous first impression.
Even worse? Cancelling appointments on short notice. Changes of plan are to be avoided, especially at the last minute.
Respect privacy and knock on closed doors before entering.
Address everyone by title and surname until invited to do otherwise.
Shake hands firmly and briefly with everyone present, before and after the meeting.
Beyond the handshake, avoid physical contact entirely.
Dress conservatively. Wear grey and dark colours — nothing flashy. In general, subtlety is wise.
Cut to the chase and be direct about your thoughts and wishes. Germans will do the same. In fact, Germans can be direct to a point that may seem rude to foreigners.
Private topics are usually avoided and discussing personal income is a no-go.
Business meetings in Germany can take ages because of all the graphs and charts. Just sit it out.
With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way towards making a good impression. When in doubt, you can always play up your own, foreign charm to win them over!