Never underestimate the importance of punctuality in German business culture. Arriving five to ten minutes early for important appointments is the norm. Showing up even five to ten minutes after the appointed time is perceived as late; a fifteen-minute variance could be considered impolite. However, if there is a delay, call ahead and explain the situation and late arrival.
Be prepared to make an appointment for most matters. The preferred times for business appointments are between 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. or between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Avoid scheduling appointments on Friday afternoons, as some offices close by 2:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. on Fridays. The business culture in Germany is considered to be hierarchy-based. Therefore, formal introductions and the use of official titles should be respected. Professionalism is highly valued. Acting in a formal and respectful way is important, particularly at first, but following the example of others is a good rule* as companies and people can differ. Personal space is important and greetings generally consist of a firm handshake and nod or polite smile. Business dress is generally formal and conservative: suits with ties and conservative dresses or suits for women. Germans generally act and communicate in a straightforward and direct way. This is not meant to be rude but rather to get to the point, and can include honest criticism.
Giving compliments is not part of German business protocol and can often cause embarrassment and awkwardness. Gift giving among business partners and associates is not common and can be viewed as inappropriate. After negotiations or agreements have been successfully concluded, a small gift may be acceptable. When giving gifts, they should not be overly expensive but of good quality. Germans traditionally use: “Wie geht es Ihnen?” [“How are you?”] as a literal question that expects a literal answer, in contrast to the common English usage of “How's it going?” to simply meaning “Hi”. It may, therefore, be considered strange or superficial to ask the question and keep on moving without waiting for an answer.
The State Department has advised to exercise increased caution in Germany due to terrorism. The risk of terror incidents has increased in Germany, much like other European countries, in the past years. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Germany’s open borders with its European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found. Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling +1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at +1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
Read the State Department consular information sheet for Germany.
A passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the stay is required. A visa is not required for tourist/business stays up to 90 days for U.S citizens within the Schengen Group of countries, which includes Germany. The time of the visit should not exceed 90 days and the visitor must leave the country after this period. Further information on entry visa and passport requirements may be obtained from the German Embassy at 4645 Reservoir Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone +1-202-298-4000, or the German Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco and on the Internet. Inquiries from outside the United States may be made to the nearest German embassy or consulate.
The currency used in Germany, and other countries within the Eurozone, is the Euro (EUR/€).
Exchange rate from EUR to USD
2019 1.14* Projected
ATMs are as easily found in Germany as they are in North America. They are located at bank branches and in shopping, tourist and other busy areas. Major credit and debit cards, along with all other bank cards carrying the PLUS and NYCE symbols, are universally accepted. When located indoors, you may have to use your card to gain access if the door is locked. The German word for an ATM is Geldautomat.
Credit Cards: Credit cards are not as widely used in Germany as they are in the United States and are not typically used for everyday expenses. However, restaurants, hotels, stores, train stations and other places regularly frequented by tourists will almost always accept them.
More information on money, bank cards and ATMs
Mobile phones are based on GSM 800 and 1600 Mhz standards. UMTS/IMT 2000 frequencies are 1900 to 2170 MHz.
Cell or mobile phones, or ‘Handy’ in German, are commonly used. Germany and most of Europe use GSM networks, which some U.S. carriers also use. Most U.S. carriers have international travel packages that include texting, calling and data for better rates rather than roaming without a plan.
The internet is widely accessible in Germany. WIFI is available in most hotels, some public spaces, restaurants, cafes etc.
Power sockets are “Type F”, also known as “Schuko”, and types C and E can also be used. This socket is used in most of Europe and parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. The standard voltage is 230V with a standard frequency of 50Hz.
Travel by plane, train or car meets international standards, but prices exceed U.S. averages. The number of in-country flights has been picking up and the train stations that dot the country provide sufficient access to nearly all cities (for train schedules)
Nevertheless, cars are the most popular means of transport, and Germany's famous highway system is extensive.
Geographic distances are relatively short when compared to the United States, but as Germany is much more densely populated than its European neighbors, it may take a little longer to travel the same distance in Germany than it may take in France or Scandinavia.
Within cities, public transportation as well as private cars or taxis are used. The public transit system which includes trains, trams and buses are generally very reliable and most locations have extensive connections and routes. The Deutsche Bahn website is the easiest way to navigate means of public transit as well as long distance trains. Google maps, and other such search engine maps, often offer public transit options when searching for directions and show where the closest stops/stations are.
German is the official language. In larger towns and cities, many people can communicate in English, particularly in business settings.
Good medical care is widely available. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate payment in cash for health services from tourists and persons with no permanent address in Germany. Most doctors, hospitals and pharmacies do not accept credit cards.
Medical Insurance: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses, such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Therefore, the State Department recommends supplemental insurance to cover any medical issues of evacuation. The State Department recommends being up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. If traveling with prescription medication, check with German Government regulations if the medication is legal in Germany, as it could cause issues in German customs. There are no known health risks which travelers must be aware of when visiting Germany. Updates, news, and current information from the WHO can be found here.
Central European Time (CET): UTC/GMT +1 hour
Central European Summer Time (CEST): UTC/GMT +2 hours
See the Export.gov website for German holidays. There are many national holidays, some of which fall on different days depending on the year. German school holidays vary by state and year. More information can be found here.
Business hours vary, but generally begin around 8am-9am and end around 4pm-5pm. Most businesses are closed on Sundays.
When bringing professional equipment such as electronic goods, cameras and musical instruments into Germany, it is strongly recommended that you first contact the consulate or embassy in your area for customs information. You might also want to consider purchasing an ATA Carnet. The ATA Carnet, which allows for the temporary, duty-free entry of goods into over 50 countries, is issued by the United States Council for International Business by appointment of the U.S. Customs Service.
More details on entry and exit restrictions for individuals and businesses from the German customs office can be found on their website.
Note: Voltage in Germany is 230. Electronic equipment from the United States will require an adaptor.
U.S. Government Resources:
Dept. of State: Travel
Dept. of State: Travel to Germany
State Department Visa Website
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC on Germany
United States Council for International Business
U.S. Customs and Border protection
German Government Resources:
German Embassy and Consulates in the U.S.
German Customs (Zoll)
German Customs Entry Restrictions
Germany Travel Website
Business Etiquette in Germany
Money, Bank Cards, and ATMS in Germany
Cell Phones in Germany and Europe
Plugs, Sockets, and Outlets in Germany
World Health Organization International
Time Zone Information
German National Holidays
German School Holidays
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