Useful Information for Business Travelers
If you are doing business in Germany and going there for meetings it is recommended to be aware of the common cultural and business practices. In the following sections you will find some useful tips for your business trip to Germany:
Even a business trip to Germany that is planned on short notice can easily be arranged. The German airline Lufthansa daily operates twice directly on the route Frankfurt – Tel Aviv. Tuifly offers flights to Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and Memmingen (Allgäu). El-Al connects Israel with Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt. The flight time is about four hours. Keep in mind public holidays when planning your trip to Germany.
Israeli citizens who travel to Germany do not require a visa according to §41 of the Ordinance of Residence. A stay up to 90 days per six months without visa in Germany and the Schengen-States is possible. Israeli citizens who want to stay for a longer period of time in Germany or who have spent most of the 90 days travelling in other Schengen-States have the possibility to extend their visa. The application therefore can only be proposed at an immigration authority in Germany after the entry to Germany. Prerequisite to enter Germany is a valid identity document, which has been issued within the last ten years and which is at least valid until three months after the return into the country of origin.
Business travelers have the possibility to choose from a broad range of car rental services at all airports, which offer vehicles of all classes. Arrangements generally can be made before your departure to Germany. Moreover taxis are available at all airports. Usually there are no fixed prices and the costs of transportation is calculated by the taximeter.
Safety and Security
Germany is a relatively safe country for travelers. In public, especially in major cities and crowded places, you should be alert of pick pockets. There is a threat of terrorism across Europe, including Germany. The country’s authorities therefore increased security measures at public buildings and transport hubs.
Currency and Exchange
Germany shares a common currency, the Euro (€), with 18 other European countries. It is recommend to change money after your arrival at the airport. Furthermore twenty-four-hours ATMs can be accessed with credit and banking cards. Your own bank will probably charge a fee for using ATMs abroad, and some German banks have €3–€5 fees for use of their ATMs. The most frequently used credit cards in Germany are MasterCard and Visa. Please note that credit cards will not be accepted by all businesses, especially for small purchases.
Most of the prices you see in Germany already include 19% value-added tax (VAT). Except for some goods, such as books or food, there is a 7% VAT. To be qualified for a tax refund the purchased item must at least have a value of 25 Euro.
Tip & Gratuitiy
In general a service charge is included in the bill at restaurants, hotels, cafés and bars. Nevertheless it is common to give a small tip, depending on the service, on average 10 percent. Furthermore you should give a tip to cab drivers and people who assist you with your baggage.
Climate & Dresscode
Germany has a moderate climate generally without longer periods of cold or hot weather. The climate of the country’s Northwest coast are characterized by warm summers and mild cloudy winters due to the maritime influence. Middle Germany has a continental climate which is marked by greater seasonal variation in temperature. Down in the south, the Alpine regions can be characterized by a so-called mountain climate with lower temperatures.
Business dress is formal and conservative. Businessmen wear dark colored business suits, solid conservative ties and white shirts. Women also dress conservatively, usually in dark suits, white blouses or conservative dresses. This dress code is observed even in warm weather. You should not remove your jacket or tie before your German colleague does so.
In the German business culture punctuality is very important. Being late without having a good reason for your delay is not appreciated. It is good to arrive a few minutes early, but arriving too early is also not recommended, as it can be seen as a disrespect for your business partner’s time.
Meetings need so be set up in advance. Most of the German business people speak English, however it can be beneficial to have working knowledge of German. At the welcome and during all of the following meetings use your business partner’s title and surname, except you are invited to do otherwise. Brief but firm handshakes are the usual way of greeting, but you should wait until it is your turn to greet everyone.
Moreover office hierarchies play an important role in Germany and are very strict. In business meetings a certain level of formality is expected and if you are hosting the meeting you should not forget to introduce the participants to each other according to hierarchy. Business meetings in general follow the pre-set agenda quite closely with adherence to schedule. In Germany direct and explicit communication is appreciated. So feel free to be direct and try to avoid statements where your audience has to read between the lines. Giving compliments is not part of the German business protocol and could cause embarrassment or discomfort.
The procedure of a business negotiation in Germany is rather formal. In general the negotiation is set up a few weeks in advance and with the invitation you will be provided a detailed agenda. The first impression is very important, so you should be punctual, look as business-like as possible, be well prepared and turn your mobile phone to silent mode to avoid any interruptions. Business negotiations in Germany are strictly about business and extremely focused. In the end of the negotiation the results usually are summarized again and it is common to send an overview of the important decisions a few days later. In Germany agreements are very detailed and binding, that is why nenegotiations are quite rare. Once a contract has been signed, you can safely assume that all parties involve will adhere to it.