Dealing with “Kraut heads.”

 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.

6 Responses to Dealing with “Kraut heads.”

  1. And this why intercultural communication skills are so important as a litlle cultural mistake can be the end of your international business! Great post Mark, thank you very much for sharing that with all of us.

  2. Marc, tu nota es acertada pero no exhaustiva en la descripcion. Creo que el negociador aleman, es probable, sea mas obsesivo que duro, para llegar al objetivo. Si, es formal y ceremonioso. De ello hace un juego para llegar al fin propuesto, pero su parte ludica existe y aparece rapido. Las comidas de “bocadillo” deben ser en las grandes consultorias que facturan por horas al cliente. Eso en Alemania y en todos los paises. Pero los empresarios, a la hora de ir a comer en un restaurante espanol, mas de una vez eran los ultimos en salir. La habia observado en Frankfurt, Varsovia y Barcelona. Como curiosidad agrego que los polacos nos consideramos mas “cabezas cuadradas” y exigentes que los propios alemanes. Sobre esto tambien se podria escribir. Creo que en tu articulo Polsh Power habia algo de esto. Un abrazo desde nuestros – 32 grados de hace una semana.

    • Hola javier,

      Pareces conocer muy bien el mercado Polaco, estoy intentando llevar acabo un par de proyectos y me gustaría poder contactar.

      Adjunto te remito mi dirección de mial, quedo a la espera de tus noticias.
      [mail oculto]

  3. Very enlightening. To reiterate your points, the Germans get down to business and they expect
    their counterparts to do the same.

  4. yes, German people who I have been treating for the last six years are very different to latins. Probably this “Square head” description is not polite and in fact unfear and unfortunate…..but at the end of this line becomes the best way of sinthesysing german style, way of being.Volker Psychology

    It is so dangerous to generalize that this might not take in consideration several differences between german territories.

    It appears clearly for me this Cartesian( coming from Descartes) way of thinking) sometimes very rigid and difficult to adapt to fast changes where improvisation is critic for problem Solving.

    For that precise reason latins as well as unpunctuall are people acostumed to improvisation, that is to find the short path to solution in problem solving. I do also believe german people adapts better to Spain than british who show themeselves to much endogamous. You only have to come to Mallorca islands to check it.

  5. Everything is true, no question about that. My biggest problem is: how to understand when it is time to recall back, to ask for a visit, to ask for feedback…sometimes I feel it is too late, sometimes I feel it is too early. The Germans do not share o disclose emotions, therefore I still did not understand how to get the perception it is the right time.
    Punctuality, being sticked to the goals and the action items, ecc. are not an obstacle, this is definitely a plus.

    Many thanks


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