Working in Germany

The German workplace is fast-paced and professional, giving qualified expats plenty of opportunities to develop their careers in a driving economic force. Understanding the country’s business etiquette is key to your success here.

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Doing business

Germany has the largest GDP in Europe. Exports play an important role in its economy and there are few restrictions on foreign investment. The country’s wealth is driven by innovative industries and a disciplined and motivated workforce. You’ll do well here if you play by the rules.

You can also get a firm foothold in European business thanks to Germany’s central location – it shares borders with nine European countries, including other economic heavyweights such as Switzerland and France.

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Business culture

There’s a strong separation between work and private life in Germany. To succeed, you have to keep up a high level of productivity at the office.

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Communication style

German business dealings are defined by directness, which takes precedence over pleasantries. Be prepared for criticism, and back up what you say in meetings with solid facts.


Businesses usually have a strict hierarchy. Decisions are made at the top, often after a rigorous process, and people are appointed to senior positions based on merit and experience.

Professional conduct

The corporate environment is very formal. Outward displays of emotion and humour are inappropriate.


Aim to be on time for everything. If you’re going to be late, let people know as soon as possible – and apologise profusely.

Fast facts

Business Language

English is widely spoken in business, especially at the multinational level.

Business hours

Usually from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with a lunch break between 12pm and 1pm.


Both men and women dress formally and conservatively, especially in the banking and finance sectors. You’ll have much more freedom to wear what you want if you work in a creative industry like fashion, art or advertising.


A handshake is the standard greeting in business circles. Always use ‘Herr’ for a man and ‘Frau’ for a woman (or a colleague’s title) followed by their surname.


Giving gifts isn’t the norm, but a small token of flowers, wine or chocolate is appropriate if you’re invited to a colleague’s home.

Gender equality

Women are treated equally in the workplace and hold a large number of senior positions in top companies.

Expat salaries

Expat salaries are generally high, especially if you work in an executive position.

Always take every important document with you to each government authority. You never know what they might need. Preparation is key and saves time and hassle for everyone involved.

American in Germany

View more hints and tips for Germany

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All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in October 2020. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you are aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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