European news, my German origin and my international business career have driven few people ask me questions about German business protocols and relationships with executives of German companies.
There is no doubt: Germany continues to be the motor of the European economy, reason for which many neighbouring countries are looking at Germany with a mix of respect , admiration and jealousy.
If you now deduct this would mean that Germany with its 80 million consumers is the ideal market for your exports, you better be careful. Because it needs more than to know that on German Autobahns the left line seems to be reserved for Mercedes, BMW, Audi or Porsche and that on the phone you have always to indicate your full name in order to be taken seriously ( even if your counterpart does not know at all who you are).
Just let us imagine, you have agreed upon a meeting at 8.00 am. That means the meeting is in fact agreed for at 8.00 o’clock and neither at 8.15 am nor at 8.30 am. ( as they say in Germany: 5 minutes before the date is the punctuality of the German soldier). You realize the matter is getting serious. The welcome is friendly , but with a certain distyance and without backslapping and you never talk to your counterpart in second person, which means SIE. Your counterpart will shortly ask you how has been your travel, and then confront you straight forward with its 10-point-working plan time schedule included, which he had elaborated accurately the day before. Yes : he will offer you a cup of coffee or tea, but otherwise starts working , only then he is allowed to give pleasure a thought. That way lunch is rather a 10 minute break for a sandwich.
In the same way the German counterpart knows no mercy : you will asked for any detail of business, and you are expected to answer clearly with yes or no. May be’s or we will clarify that later will not be accepted. You are not for pleasure or fun at the negotiatinf table. And the negotiations are not finished, before each and every point has been fixed, as flexibility and improvisation is not a talent of the Germans. He can be bullheaded until desperation of its counterpart, why they are called here squareheaded. But they do not loose its objective out of sight, if necessary until the endsieg.
Perseverance and the fact that they never ever give up, are part of the explanation of its success in exports.