Germany - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, acceptable business etiquette, dress, business cards, gifts, etc.

Last published date: 2021-10-07

Business Customs

  • Punctuality is an important part of German business culture. The norm is to arrive about five minutes early to an appointment. If you show up more than five minutes after the appointed time, you would be perceived as late, and more than fifteen minutes are considered impolite. However, if there is a delay, you can always call ahead and explain the situation. Germans generally act and communicate in a direct and structured way; they want things to be done as efficiently as possible. It is not about being rude, but this behavior can include honest and constructive criticism. It also means to them that they value your time as much as theirs.
  • Appointments are made for most matters. The usual times for business appointments are between 9:00am - 12:00pm or between 2:00pm - 5:00pm. You should avoid scheduling on Friday afternoons as some offices might already be closed during that time.
  • Addressing people: You should respect formal introductions and the use of official titles for example: Dr., Prof., Ing., among others. Your professionalism will be highly valued. In general acting in a formal way is important, particularly at first, but following the examples of others is a good rule. After several meetings, they might prefer a more informal interaction, but this varies depending on the people and the company so, it is polite to remain formal in tone unless they invite you to do otherwise.
  • Business attire is generally formal and conservative. This means suits (not necessarily with tie) for men and suits or conservative dresses for women.
  • First approach: A greeting usually consists of a smile (even when covered by a mouth and nose covering) and ‘elbow bumps’ or ‘fist bumps’ which have largely replaced handshakes as hygiene controls came into place due the pandemic. Do not greet with a hug nor a kiss on the cheek, as in other cultures. Allowing for adequate personal space is important throughout the meeting. The question “Wie geht es Ihnen?” [“How are you?”] is used as a literal question and expects a literal answer. The common English usage of it simply being a formality or greeting feels strange to most Germans. Not replying in the expected way or moving on without waiting for an answer can therefore be considered superficial and impolite.
  • Giving compliments is not common and can cause embarrassment. The same can be said about giving gifts, which may even be viewed as inappropriate. Only after negotiations or agreements, a small gift may be acceptable. The gift should not be overly expensive, but of good quality.

Travel Advisory

There is currently (July 2021) a global health advisory in effect advising people not to travel and to avoid international travel due to the global impact of Covid-19. See the Website of the State Department  for updates.

The State Department has advised to exercise increased caution in Germany due to terrorism, both local and foreign. In the past years, the risk of terror incidents in European countries has increased. Germany’s open borders with its European neighbors allow for the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department’s website, where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, Travel Warnings and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling +1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at +1-317-472-2328. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

Read the:

  • State Department consular information sheet for Germany
  • Department of State: Travel to Germany
  • Department of State Visa Website 
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention
  • CDC on Germany

Visa requirements

You do not require a visa for tourist or business stays up to 90 days within the Schengen Group of countries as a U.S. citizen. This includes Germany. The time of the visit should not exceed 90 days and the visitor must leave the country after this period. A passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the stay is required.

Further information on entry visa and passport requirements may be obtained from the German Embassy at 4645 Reservoir Road N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone +1-202-298-4000, or the German Consulates General in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or San Francisco and on the Internet.

For inquiries outside the United States, see the list of German Embassies and Consulates on the Federal Foreign Office’s website: Bilateral Relations and German missions.

Please review the E.U. travel restrictions which are now in place as a result of the global health crisis. You can find information and updates on the website of the European Commission.

Currency

In Germany and other countries within the Eurozone, the Euro [EUR/€] is the used currency.

Exchange rate from EUR to USD (as of January 1st)

Year

2016

2017

2018

2019

2020

2021

EXR

1.0834

1.0795

1.2420

1.1444

1.1093

1.2136

See the Euro foreign exchange reference rates for continuously updated exchange rates.

  • Because of high currency-exchange fees, travelers should consider converting their currency before traveling.
  • Banks, credit unions, online bureaus, and currency converters provide convenient and often inexpensive currency exchange services.
  • Once on foreign soil, the best means to convert currency is to use a foreign ATM or identify if your bank has ATMs or banking affiliates nearby.
  • Many credit and debit card issuers allow users to purchase with no foreign transaction fees.

Unlike in the United States, many restaurants and vendors in Germany do not accept card payment, so remember to always carry some cash. In addition, some credit cards, such as American Express (among others), may not be accepted at certain shops.

Telecommunications/Electronics

Mobile phones are based on GSM 800 and 1600 MHz standards. UMTS/IMT 2000 frequencies are 1900 to 2170 MHz.

Cell or mobile phones [“Handy” in German] are commonly used. Germany and most of Europe use GSM networks, which some U.S. carriers also use. Most U.S. carriers have international travel packages that include texting, calling and data for better rates rather than roaming without a plan.

Internet is widely accessible in Germany, WI-FI is available in most hotels, some public spaces, restaurants, cafes, etc.

Power sockets are “Type F”, also known as “Schuko”, and types C and E can also be used. This socket is used in most of Europe and parts of Africa, Asia, and South America. The standard voltage is 230V with a standard frequency of 50Hz.

Transportation

Travel by plane, train or car meets international standards, but prices exceed U.S. averages. The number of in-country flights has been picking up and the train stations that dot the country provide sufficient access to nearly all cities. Nevertheless, cars are a very popular means of transportation, and Germany’s famous highway system is extensive.

Geographic distances are relatively short when compared to the United States, but as Germany is much more densely populated than its European neighbors, it may take a little longer to travel the same distance in Germany than it may take in France or Scandinavia.

Within cities, public transportation as well as private cars, taxis, e-scooters, shared bikes and services like Uber are used (although not available in every city and at every hour). The public transit system which includes trains, trams and buses is generally very reliable and most locations have extensive connections and routes. The Deutsche Bahn website is the easiest way to navigate means of public transit as well as long distance trains. Google Maps, and other such search engine maps, often offer public transit options when searching for directions and show where the closest stops/stations are.

Language

German is the official language. In larger towns and cities, many people can communicate in English, particularly in business settings. German is also an official language in the neighboring countries Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and Switzerland.

Health

Good medical care is widely available. Doctors and hospitals may expect immediate payment in cash for health services from tourists and persons with no permanent address in Germany. Most doctors, hospitals and pharmacies do not accept credit cards.

The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses, such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Therefore, the State Department recommends supplemental insurance to cover any medical issues including evacuation.

The State Department recommends being up to date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

If traveling with prescription medication, check with German Government regulations if the medication is legal in Germany, as it could cause issues in German customs.

The situation with COVID-19 can change rapidly. Travelers must keep abreast of any Coronavirus Entry Regulations when visiting Germany. You may need to complete a Digital Registration on Entry if you are arriving from a risk area.

Local time, business hours, and holidays:

Central European Time (CET):                                         UTC/GMT +1 hour
Central European Summer Time (CEST):                     UTC/GMT +2 hours

There are many national holidays, some of which fall on different days depending on the year. German school holidays vary by state and year.

Business hours vary, but generally begin around 8am-9am and end around 4pm-5pm. Most businesses are closed on Sundays including most supermarkets and pharmacies. 

Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings:

When bringing professional equipment such as electronic goods, cameras, and musical instruments into Germany, we strongly recommended that you first contact the consulate or embassy in your area for customs information. You might also want to consider purchasing an ATA Carnet. The ATA Carnet, which allows for the temporary, duty-free entry of goods into over 50 countries, is issued by the United States Council for International Business by appointment of the U.S. Customs Service.

More details on entry and exit restrictions for individuals and businesses can be found on the website of the German customs office.
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