Take the Bundesbahn: How to Get By When Traveling to Germany on Business
Statistically speaking, there is a fairly big chance that you will have to deal with German companies at one point if you are expanding globally. Germany is the biggest economy in Europe and still prides itself to be “Exportweltmeister” (the world’s champion of exports) after all. Visiting Germany on business can be a lot of fun, as we’ll discover in our next part of our series for business travelers, especially if you make good use of our insider tips.
First off, some of the preconceptions you might have about Germans are true: They drink a lot of beer, they are slow to smile, and they adhere to strict hierarchies when it comes to doing business. And whatever else you might have in your head about the country and its people is probably wrong at the same time. While the German society is still far more homogeneous than, for example, the U.S., you will find both old-school business people following all the rules you’ve heard about as well as well traveled, young entrepreneurs modeling their startups after the latest trends in Silicon Valley.
How to Play It Safe
For business meetings, you are on the safe side if you start out a little more reserved than you probably would at home. Not too much small talk, no jokes starting off presentations, lead with facts and figures rather than with your vision of world domination if you want to be taken seriously. At the very beginning, you greet each other with a firm handshake while looking into your counterpart’s eyes, starting with the most senior people in the room. If you sense, however, that your counterparts are well versed in U.S. business culture you don’t have to play your cards so close to the vest. One thing still holds true until today though: Meetings start on time and it is considered rude to be late.
How to Take the Train
Once the business part of your day is behind you, you are free to roam. German cities are pretty safe to get around, just watch for occasional pickpockets in touristy spots. Public transportation is abundant and fairly easy to navigate. Speaking of trains: If you have to get from one city to another, consider taking the “Deutsche Bundesbahn”, the equivalent to Amtrak, only better. German trains are modern and fast, you book tickets hassle-free online with your credit card at www.bahn.de. While you can often just get your ticket on the train, this is not always the case and you’ll find special offers only online. Pro tip: Often first class tickets cost just a few euros more than regular second class tickets. The upgrade will get you more legroom, leather seats, free newspapers and servers coming to your seat. Germans often prefer fast trains called ICE to air travel, especially when cities are as close together as Berlin and Hamburg, for example.
Why to Mind the Business Hours
There are two other things you should be aware of when traveling to Germany. Credit cards are not as widely used as they are in the States and many restaurants only accept cash or ATM cards. And don’t even try to pay for your delicious fresh “Brot” (bread) with a card if you don’t want to risk getting kicked out of the bakery. The second thing to be aware of is the business hours. In many cities, stores and supermarkets still close at 6pm or 8pm at the latest. On weekends you might find your favorite bakery closed after noon or open on Sundays only for a few hours if at all. In fact, most stores are closed on Sundays. If you are in a pinch, your best bet is hitting the main train station in town or a gas station where you might find stores open late. But if you stay over a weekend, better plan ahead.
We hope you’ll successfully navigate your way through “Bahn” and “Brot” while traveling to Germany on business. If you have translation or localization needs you would like to discuss, don’t hesitate to contact us here or request a quote here today.
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