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How to communicate with Germans like a pro (+ 5×3 tips to avoid misunderstanding!)

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Is it that hard to communicate with Germans? Do they really dislike talking? Read the following 15 (5×3) tips on how you can improve when you communicate with Germans

While mastering German is an excellent point, it is not enough to cope with the cultural differences that you might encounter when trying to communicate with Germans. Understanding the partner’s culture is crucial to enable good communication and avoid the odds! Below are 15 (5×3) tips to help you enjoy your interaction with Germans

Germans tend to communicate directly

communicate with germans

The Germans often appear authoritariannot very diplomatic and surprisingly honest. Also, their discussions seem to lack finesse, emotion or humor. The German mode of communication tends to combine real sobriety with a lack of empathy towards his interlocutor, which can very quickly be misinterpreted as arrogant or even impertinent.

Germany is a low context culture (ET Hall). This style of direct communication is characterized by the fact that the content of the message is conveyed by the words themselves. The unspoken or the emotional ties have almost no importance; one is satisfied with the information explicitly expressed. This will not only make it possible to communicate explicitly without worrying too much about the susceptibilities of the interlocutor.

In German companies in particular, this direct communication aims to continuously improve processes. It allows teams to identifyanalyze and solve all problems in an objectivetargeted and efficient manner. Are not efficiency and performance two of the most respected German qualities in the world?

For example, unlike typically German communication, in French culture the relationship between interlocutors plays an important role and gives communication a strong context (ET Hall) although often not expressed (implicit). With its overtones, the second degree or even multiple gestures, this indirect communication requires more efforts of interpretation for the participants.


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5 tips for a successful daily life in Germany

communicate with germans
  1. When you communicate with Germans, state your message precisely and express yourself directly and explicitly.
  2. Express a critical opinion (positive or negative) openly and try to consolidate it with objective arguments. The Germans will appreciate your frankness and professionalism.
  3. Communicate in writing to get important messages across or take advantage of regular meetings that often serve as a formal platform for discussion and criticism in companies.
  4. Do not try to interpret things that are not said. Germans rarely use innuendo, especially in the world of work.
  5. Never cover up a problem with your job. Inform your superiors of any existing major risk (planning, budget, etc.) within the framework of a project or your work in general.

In short: be clear, precise and direct.

5 tips on how to effectively communicate with Germans

communicate with germans

No matter where you come from, these tips will help you to improve how you communicate with Germans:

1. If you have problems, think about cultural differences

Your conversation partner is already late again, doesn’t want to shake hands or is piqued about your choice of dishes for a business lunch? Instead of getting mad or thinking that he / she is rude, think about possible cultural differences. It is quite possible that what you take for granted is frowned upon elsewhere – and vice versa.

2. Be open to other people’s point of view

How does what you do resonate with others? The more you reflect on yourself, the easier it is for you to take the perspective of your international customers or colleagues. If you deal with other cultures, you will also be confronted with habits that seem alien to you. Show interest and be open to new things!

3. Do not insist on your own customs

Intercultural competence means approaching one another. It’s not always easy, neither for you nor for the person you are talking to. Insisting on one’s own habits disrupts cooperation. Especially if you are visiting another country, you should be prepared for the rules there. But it is also very helpful with guests to adjust to their ideas of politeness and good togetherness.

4. Engage with Germans

To get around as many faux pas as possible, you need to know something about Germans. Politeness and business habits are usually closely related to traditions, customs, values ​​and religious beliefs. You can read up on knowledge about it, discuss it with colleagues or find out when you are abroad. Often there are also training courses in companies that deal with intercultural competence. The more you know about Germans, the better you can communicate with them.

5. Pay attention

It will not be possible to completely avoid the fact that you commit a faux pas every now and then. It doesn’t matter as long as you respond well to it. Therefore, be attentive to the reactions of your business partners and, if in doubt, ask whether you have behaved inappropriately. Interest and an apology solve most intercultural problems.

5 tips to prevent misunderstandings in email correspondence with Germans?

communicate with germans

There are numerous guides that deal with different types of communication and hierarchical cultures. Below are 5 tips to help you write better emails to your German colleagues, partners and in general:

1. Draw a “confirmation loop and write your message from that basis

It’s important to draw a “confirmation loop” when you receive an e-mail from a business partner, a service provider from a different cultural and linguistic area. That is, summarize again in your own words what you have understood. In this way, potential misunderstandings are uncovered more quickly.

Focus on your conversation goal. In every communication you have a goal. Maybe you want to pass on information. Hand over a task to a colleague. Make a request. Or clarify a problem. Ask yourself:

  • What do you want to communicate?
  • Why do you want to share it?
  • What should the interlocutor do with your statement?

2. Make precise statements

Make it easier for your interlocutor to grasp and understand your statement quickly. Make statements that precisely and explicitly state your concern. Ask yourself:

  • What is your key message?
  • What information does this key statement include?
  • How can you structure this information so that the person you are speaking to can understand you very well?
  • Which arguments do you want to present in which order?

3. Provide cultural background information

Not every German might know about your country. So strive to provide cultural background information. Always ask whether the other person has the cultural background to understand you. If necessary, add the missing information to your e-mail completely casually. Someone from abroad may not know that Shrove Monday is not a normal working day in the Rhineland – even if it is not officially advertised as a public holiday. Or your addressee, your addressee is not informed about the processing times of building applications.

4. Adapt your writing style to your counterpart

When in Rome, do as the Romans do! Try and adapt your writing style to your counterpart. You don’t have to read any advice on intercultural communication, just read the emails you receive carefully. In Germany we have a moderate formal writing style. We pay less attention to the hierarchy than to the competence level, we usually write straight to the point and more often neglect the relationship level. 

For example, in France more emphasis is placed on a polite and distinguished writing style than here. As soon as you notice that your counterpart is writing more formally than you, ask more at the relationship level: Do it too. Write a little more politely, ask how you feel before you get down to business and communication will be better.

5. Specify what it is that you want or expect  

Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are speaking to. See your message from their perspective. Because, whether in a conversation or while reading your e-mail, they will ask themselves: “What should I do with this information?” Write what you expect the reader to do. Ask yourself:

  • What actions are required of your interlocutor?
  • What should he do when and in what order?
  • Are the action criteria clearly defined?
  • Can the recipient easily understand and also implement these criteria for action?
  • Does the recipient need certain aids to do what they do? What are these?
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