Everyone knows Germany – it is impossible to ignore the largest economy in European Union, with over 80 million inhabitants and unquestionable influence in political arena. Germans are good lawyers, bankers, architects and even better scientists; a sign “Made in Germany” is directly associated with high quality, and so on.
Decision to expand to Germany should not be made lightly, as – most probably – it will cost more than usual, it will take longer than usual and there is no guarantee that it would go as expected. In order to be successful in Germany you have to understand the Germans first; fortunately enough, they are very normal people; unfortunately, their normality comes with a twist. Here are a few things to note about Germany and Germans in general, having trade shows in mind:
- Trust. Most foreign companies trying to sell their products and services in Germany usually say it is a rocky road to enter this market. And this is not because Germans prefer local products, but because it takes time to earn the trust of a German. Trust is the key – no German would do business with someone he/she does not trust.
- Conservative approach. A paradox – being one of the major trend-setters in most innovative technologies, methods and research, when it comes to their own choices, Germans remain quite conservative. This is especially true when it comes to such common things as online business. Yes, it is accepted, and it is cutting its way through in bigger cities, but a true German would feel better, for example, shopping at his local supermarket (where he can see, touch and smell what he buys) instead of ordering his groceries online. There are also a lot of regulations you have to adhere to when selling online; if you disregard them and your online customer complains about your products, in some cases you might end up explaining yourself at a police station.
- Quality. Germans are known for quality in everything they do, and they expect the same in return. Things offered to them have to be fit for purpose, services delivered promptly and as promised. One thing to note though: German “quality” is usually higher than usual.
- Clarity. Germans want to know who they are dealing with, what powers and responsibilities those people have and what exactly it is they offer. For example, there is a legal requirement for all companies in Germany to provide their full company registration details and full contacts on their websites (“Impressum”).
- Competence. If you represent a company and a German asks you a question about one of your products, it is expected you are able to either professionally answer that question yourself (best option), or immediately find someone capable of answering it. In detail.
- Rules and order. Germans are famous for having a myriad of rules and regulating every aspect of life. They are used to such regulation, they respect it and they expect everyone else to respect it too. It is advisable to check the law on the matter first, before starting anything, be it a national advertising campaign or a bonfire in your garden. “Ordnung muss sein” (“There must be order”) is the famous phrase that represents the core of the German world.
- Planning. Germans love planning, they love to know the exact course of events and they do not like last minute adjustments or change of plans. Punctuality falls under this category as well – if the meeting is agreed to start at 7.00, that means it should start at 7.00, and not 7.10.
- Perfectionism. Any German would love to be the best at what he does, and most of them are constantly learning, deepening their knowledge or in any other way developing their skills. The aim is not to know everything; the aim is to know everything better.
- Privacy. Germans respect private space and time of others and they expect the same in return. A German would not bother you when you are busy, unless absolutely forced to, as this is considered rude and impolite. There will be no questions about private life either, as this is very much separated from the public and protected from eyes and ears of others.
- And finally, how do you do? Well, be prepared. In Germany this is not merely a polite phrase which helps to start the conversation; it is a question, which requires an answer.
We hope this short introduction would give you some insight into Germany and Germans. Of course, the list is far from exhaustive; these are just basic points to consider.
Sadly, we know a lot of examples when companies invest large amounts into projects that would be very successful in their own and maybe other countries, but in Germany they produce less than satisfactory results. Most of the times the problem lies in small details of presentation, which go unnoticed, as they are extremely difficult to detect for anyone unfamiliar with the country (they say you have to be a German to understand how a German thinks). Deutschland is big and the market is even bigger; parts of the country also differ significantly, e.g., what is ok in Eastern Germany might not be accepted in Western Germany (and vice versa), what is common in Bavaria might be misunderstood in Hamburg and so on.
Talking to us might save you time and money – we are Germans, we are in Germany and we specialise in helping foreign companies entering German market. Our contact details are here.