Business German: A top guide to culture, etiquette, vocab + more

You want one month of annual vacation, three years of parental leave and a bottle of beer after each work day? Consider applying for a job in Germany!

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, workplaces are more culturally diverse than ever before. Some of us are working remotely with international teams from all over the world, while others go to the office where they get to meet with people from more and more diverse backgrounds.

Regardless of that, every single workplace has its own unique work culture. So starting a new job can be like moving to a whole new place in a number of ways.

Whether you’re actually starting a new position in a German-speaking business environment or you’re just curious how the Germans do business, we have some fascinating insights for you. Get ready for an extensive tour through the world of German business vocab and culture!

5 important facts about business German

Communicating in German is tough enough, but communicating in a German business environment might double your challenges. Here are 5 things to keep in mind when talking to your German colleagues:

  1. Always say what you mean
    Germans are known for a direct communication style that values honesty and straightforwardness. Be prepared for less smalltalk and more real talk.
  2. Don’t get discouraged
    German business terms can look especially intimidating because they tend to be extra long but keep in mind that scarily long German words are usually just compound nouns, so it helps to break them down into their parts.
  3. Remember if you’re on a “du” or a “Sie” base with someone
    Sie” is a formal and polite way of addressing people. While it’s common to call your boss “Sie” in bigger companies, that will often sound too formal in smaller companies where your boss might be fairly close to you, so it’s ok to say “du”. Just use the form the other person initially uses to address you.
  4. Punctuality is paramount
    For some people “9AM” can mean anything from 8:58 to 9:15 but in a German business context, it means 9AM sharp. If you show up to a 9AM meeting at 9:02, you’re late, and for some people, that’s pretty unforgivable, at least if you’re just starting out. So make sure you communicate when you’ll actually be there.
  5. “Feierabendbierchen” is an important term
    This refers to the “little after work beer” and it’s an important part of German work culture. Especially in summer, colleagues like to hang around after work to celebrate the end of their work day with a good old German beer!

Feierabendbierchen refers to a little after work beer and is an important part of German work culture.

Top common business German words and vocabulary

Let’s get started with the most common German business terms. You’re likely to encounter these if you’re working in a German-speaking environment, so grab your notebook and a pen because there are a lot of them!

Basic business vocabulary

When you’re starting a new position in a German work environment, of course it’s crucial to master the basics:

GermanEnglish translationGerman example sentenceMeaning
WillkommenWelcomeWillkommen im Team!Welcome to the team!
Jmd. kennenlernenTo meet so.Schön dich/Sie kennenzulernen!Nice to meet you!
Das BüroOfficeWir sehen uns im Büro!See you at the office!
Der TeamgeistTeam spiritDas Team hat einen starken Teamgeist und arbeitet immer zusammen.The team has a strong team spirit and always works together.
Das Meeting, die BesprechungMeetingDie Besprechung dauerte länger als erwartet.The meeting lasted longer than expected.
Der KundenserviceCustomer serviceDer Kundenservice des Unternehmens ist super freundlich und hilfsbereit.The customer service of this company is super friendly and helpful.
KundenCustomersDie Zufriedenheit unserer Kunden ist uns sehr wichtig.Customer satisfaction is very important to us.
Das MarketingMarketingDas Marketing-Team ist besonders kreativ.The marketing team is especially creative.
Die Firma, das UnternehmenCompanyIch arbeite für ein Tech-Unternehmen in Berlin.I work for a tech company in Berlin.
Die Chefin, der ChefBossDie Chefin stellt heute ihre neue Unternehmensstrategie vor.The boss is presenting her new corporate strategy today.
Die ArbeitWorkIch gehe jeden Tag zur Arbeit.I go to work every day.
ArbeitenTo workWo arbeitest du?Where do you work?
Der ArbeitgeberEmployer (company)Der Arbeitgeber hat mir heute ein neues Projekt zugewiesen.The employer assigned me a new project today.
Die Angestellte, der AngestellteEmployeeDie Angestellten arbeiten hart, um die Ziele des Unternehmens zu erreichen.The employees work hard to achieve the company's goals.
Die Kollegin, der KollegeColleagueMein Kollege ist heute nicht im Büro.My colleague is not in the office today.
Der AuftragOrder, taskDer Auftrag muss bis Freitag erledigt sein.The task must be completed by Friday.
Die KaffeepauseCoffee breakIch brauch’ erstmal eine kleine Kaffeepause.I need a little coffee break.
Die MittagspauseLunch breakIch freu’ mich jetzt schon auf die Mittagspause.I’m already looking forward to my lunch break.
Der FeierabendEnd of workdayDer Feierabend ist der Höhepunkt des Arbeitstags.The best part of the workday is the end of it.

Human resources vocabulary

We’ll walk you through the whole process - from the job interview to your first promotion.

GermanEnglish translationGerman example sentenceMeaning
Die PersonalabteilungHuman resources (HR)Die Personalabteilung kümmert sich um alle Angelegenheiten rund um unsere Mitarbeiter.The Human Resources department takes care of all matters concerning our employees.
Die StellenausschreibungJob postingDie Stellenausschreibung hat eine hohe Resonanz erzeugt.The job posting has generated a high response.
BewerberApplicantsUnsere Bewerber sind die Zukunft unseres Unternehmens.Our applicants are the future of our company.
Das VorstellungsgesprächJob interviewDas Vorstellungsgespräch ist immer eine großartige Gelegenheit, um die besten Leute für die Firma zu finden.The job interview is always a great opportunity to find the best people for the company.
Der JobJobHerzlichen Glückwunsch zum neuen Job!Congratulations on your new job!
ZuschüsseBenefitsDie Zuschüsse für Mitarbeitergesundheit fördern unser Engagement für das Wohlbefinden der Mitarbeiter.The subsidies for employee health promote our commitment to employee well-being.
Das GehaltSalaryDas Gehalt spiegelt die Wertschätzung des Unternehmens für unsere Mitarbeiter wider.The salary reflects the company's appreciation for our employees.
Die LeistungsbeurteilungPerformance evaluationDie Leistungsbeurteilung ist ein wichtiger Bestandteil der Mitarbeiterentwicklung in vielen Unternehmen.Performance evaluation is an important part of employee development in many companies.
Die EinarbeitungOnboardingDie Einarbeitung neuer Mitarbeiter sollte Spaß machen und sie willkommen heißen.The onboarding of new employees should be fun and welcoming.
EinstellenTo hireWir werden einen neuen Mitarbeiter einstellen, um das Team zu verstärken.We’ll hire a new employee to strengthen the team.
Jdn. entlassenTo let sb. goLeider müssen wir einige Mitarbeiter entlassen, um unsere Kosten zu reduzieren.Unfortunately, we have to lay off some employees to reduce our costs.
Die DiversitätDiversityUnsere Stärke liegt in unserer Diversität.Our strength lies in our diversity.
Die InklusionInclusionWir fördern Inklusion in unserem Unternehmen, um eine vielfältige Arbeitsumgebung zu schaffen.We promote inclusion in our company to create a diverse work environment.
Die BeförderungPromotionIch freue mich über meine Beförderung zur Teamleiterin.I’m excited about my promotion to team leader.

Business meetings vocabulary

Once you’re used to your new job, you’ll be able to participate in meetings and share your ideas. Here’s how you do it.

Learn business meetings vocabulary in Germany

GermanEnglish translationGerman example sentenceMeaning
AnfangenTo startFangen wir an!Let’s get started!
Der VetrragContractDas steht so im Vertrag.That's what the contract says.
Die IdeeIdeaIch hab eine Idee.I have an idea.
Die FrageQuestionIch hab eine Frage.I have a question.
Die VerhandlungNegotiationWie lief die Verhandlung?How did the negotiation go?
MeinenTo meanWas meinst du/meinen Sie damit?What do you mean by that?
ZustimmenTo agreeIch stimme voll und ganz zu.I completely agree with that.
Der EinwandObjectionIch hätte da einen Einwand.I have an objection. (polite)
Der VorschlagSuggestionIch hab einen Vorschlag.I have a suggestion.
Der PunktPointAusgezeichneter Punkt!Excellent point!
Zu etw. kommenTo move on to sth.Kommen wir zum nächsten Punkt!Let's move on to the next point!
VertagenTo tableDas vertagen wir aufs nächste Meeting.Let’s table that for the next meeting.
Die AufmerksamkeitAttentionVielen Dank für die Aufmerksamkeit!Thank you for your attention!

Business writing vocabulary

If you want to save some time, scratch the meeting and write an email instead!

GermanEnglish translationGerman example sentenceMeaning
Die E-mailEmailVielen Dank für Ihre E-MailThank you for your email
Der EmpfängerRecipientBehalten Sie Ihre Empfänger im Auge und schreiben Sie E-Mails, die beeindrucken.Keep your recipients in mind and write emails that impress.
Der AbsenderSenderDer Absender ist der erste Eindruck deiner E-Mail.The sender is the first impression of your email.
Die AnredeA written greetingDie Anrede in einer E-Mail ist wie ein Handschlag am Anfang eines Meetings.The greeting in an email is like a handshake at the beginning of a meeting.
Liebe/r…Dear…Liebe Kollegen, lasst uns heute die Arbeit rocken!Dear colleagues, let's rock the work today!
An alle, die es betrifftTo whom it may concernAn alle, die es betrifft,
ich wünsche Ihnen allen hiermit schöne Feiertage.
To whom it may concern,
I wish you all happy holidays.
Der BetreffSubjectDer Betreff gibt einen Ausblick, worum es in der E-Mail geht.The subject gives a preview of what the email is about.
Die ZusammenfassungSummaryJede E-Mail sollte eine kurze Zusammenfassung mit wichtigem Kontext enthalten.Every email should include a short summary of the important context.
Die KernaussageMain messageDie Kernaussage meiner E-Mail war, dass sie einen rundum tollen Job macht!The main message of my email was that she’s doing a great job all around!
Der AnhangAttachmentNicht vergessen, den Anhang anzuhängen!Don't forget to attach the attachment!
Die GrüßeRegardsMit freundlichen GrüßenKind regards

Sales, product and marketing vocabulary

The key to most jobs is knowing your company’s product and believing in its value. These terms are going to be helpful:

The key to most jobs is knowing your company’s product and believing in its value.

GermanEnglish translationGerman example sentenceMeaning
Der UmsatzRevenueDer Umsatz im letzten Quartal hat alle Erwartungen übertroffen.The revenue in the last quarter exceeded all expectations.
Der GewinnProfitMit unserem neuen Produkt erzielen Sie einen höheren Gewinn.With our new product, you will generate higher profits.
Die RechnungInvoiceWir haben die Rechnung bereits beglichen.We have already settled the invoice.
Das ProduktProductIch stehe hinter unserem Produkt.I stand behind our product.
VerhandelnTo negotiateUm erfolgreich Geschäfte zu machen, ist es wichtig, zu verhandeln.To negotiate is important to make successful business deals.
ÜberzeugenTo convinceLassen Sie sich von mir überzeugen.Let me convince you.
Der RabattDiscountBieten Sie irgendwelche Rabatte an?Do you offer any discounts?
Das SonderangebotSpecial offerWir haben ein Sonderangebot.We have a special offer.
Das BudgetBudgetWas ist Ihr Budget?What is your budget?
Das GeschäftBusinessEs war mir eine Freude, mit Ihnen Geschäfte zu machen.It was a pleasure doing business with you.

For a more detailed look at signing off in emails, check out our helpful guide on saying goodbye in German!

Other industry-specific vocabulary

Lastly, here’s a list of the most common industries in German, in case someone asks you what field you work in!

Die BildungEducation
Das GesundheitswesenHealthcare
Die TechnologieTechnology
Die PolitikPolitics
Der ToursimusTourism
Die BuchhaltungAccounting
FinanzdienstleistungenFinancial Services
Das MarketingMarketing
Das GastgewerbeHospitality
Das DienstleistungsgewerbeService
Das RechtswesenLegal
Die ArchitekturArchitecture
Der HandelCommerce
Das BauwesenConstruction
Der TransportTransportation
Die UnterhaltungEntertainment
Die EnergieEnergy
Die UmweltEnvironment
ImmobilienReal Estate

Business culture

Now that you know all the important German business vocab, it’s time to take a closer look at German business culture including business etiquette and attire.

German business culture, etiquette and attire

German business culture isn’t all that different from American business culture - but if you look closely, you’ll spot some interesting facts:

German business culture, etiquette and attire.

As Europeans we tend to value culture, leisure and art over “the grind”

While it sometimes seems like Americans live to work, Germans definitely rather work to live, meaning most people don’t see their job as their main focus in life. Of course there are also companies with highly demanding work environments and employees who work beyond the 40 hours they’re supposed to - but that’s the exception.

Education is highly valued

Companies invest heavily in employee training and development, and advanced degrees and certifications are often required for top positions. As universities are free in Germany, you’re just expected to have a degree if you’re looking to work in certain fields.

Mental health is taken very seriously in the workplace

In Germany, employees are entitled to paid sick leave if they’re unable to work due to mental health issues as these are treated just like physical health issues.

One month a year is usually vacation time

Legally, German employers are obligated to allow at least 20 paid vacation days per year but only about 4% actually stop there. About 70% of German employees are offered at least 26 to 30 paid vacation days.

German maternity leave (Mutterschutz) lasts for 14 weeks

Starting six weeks before the due date and ending eight weeks after the birth of the baby, the mother receives her full pay from the employer and is not allowed to work.

After that, she (or the other parent) can choose to take an additional parental leave, which can last up to three years! For the first 14 months of parental leave, they receive about 65% of their pay from the government.

After that, they don’t get any money but the employer is obligated to hold a position for them, so they can either return to their former job or an equivalent position.

Business attire isn’t taken too seriously in Germany.

Yes, employers appreciate it if you wear a clean shirt for your job interview, preferably without holes, but that’s about it. Germans are generally known to value comfort and practicality over fashionability.

My best tip if you’re actually working in Germany is to dress appropriately for the weather. That means: Bring a scarf in winter and a hand fan in summer. Don’t expect to find an AC in your office!

5 tips on adapting to a new work culture

We know that’s a lot to remember, so here are 5 general tips that will save you in any new work environment.

1. Observe

Spend some time observing and listening to your colleagues to learn about the company's culture and work practices. This can help you understand what is expected of you and how you fit in the bigger picture.

2. Ask questions

Asking lots of questions will show that you’re interested in learning and understanding the company.

3. Invest in relationships

Take the initiative to make friends among your colleagues. This will help you feel comfortable and included. Plus, the more time you spend with your colleagues, the easier it will be to understand their ways of thinking.

4. Consider cross cultural training

If you’re working in a culturally diverse environment and you feel like your company would benefit from professional training, it might be worth looking into corporate training services. These are designed to improve intercultural communication between global teams and focus on making the best of cultural differences.

5. Keep an open mind

Be flexible and respectful towards cultural differences. You may feel like the ways you’re used to are better but there usually is a reason people work the way they do. Maybe your way is faster but the way your new colleagues work is more thorough - or vice versa? Keep in mind that different workflows are often built on different values and one isn’t necessarily better than the other!

Five facts to help you adapte to a new work culture in Germany.

Just do the impossible

Speaking of business, it’s really insightful to take a look at two of the most famous companies in the world: Adidas and Nike. While they’re doing very similar things, Adidas is German and Nike is American and this shows in their image, their values and their slogans.

Adidas is the older one, valuing tradition, performance and sustainability. Their motto is “Impossible is nothing”, a romantic, slightly stilted call to go above and beyond. Their ways of operating usually come with a lot of strategic planning and coordination with the entire team.

Nike, on the other hand, stands for innovation, inspiration and creativity. Their famous motto is “Just do it” - a work attitude that couldn’t possibly be more American. It’s all about jumping right in and getting the job done, sometimes in ways that have never been done before.

If you’re looking for the best way to combine two different (work) cultures, keep what you value about your own culture but embrace the best parts of the new one. For example, if you combine the slogans of Adidas and Nike, you end up with some pretty good advice that’s more than just the sum of its parts: Just do the impossible!

Of course, the most important part of understanding a foreign culture is understanding the language. So keep learning German on our entertaining and educational German Language Blog.

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