Geographical, socio-political, climatic changes have influenced the German cuisine to become what it is today. Before the reunification, East Germany was highly influenced by the neighbouring Communist countries’ cuisines. The influx of immigrants from Italy and Turkey during the 1990s brought with them, their own food styles, to which the Germans quickly adapted. Since early 2000s, there has been a considerable rise in Asian food being widely available in the German market.
According to a Reuters report of 2011, Germans surpassed Italian as well as the Spanish cuisine. In 2013, The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture stated that Germany’s food exports amounted to EUR 66 billion. On an average, Germans have 3 meals a day, instead of the customary 5 meal pattern which existed earlier. Like almost every other country, Germany too has its own dining & business etiquette, knowing which, would definitely be of help during your next business trip.
Here are some commonly observed table manners –
1. Handshakes & Greetings
It is quite the norm to greet by shaking hands with your colleagues, whether you’re present for a meeting or otherwise. The host usually raises a toast saying ‘Guten Appetit’ and once everyone seated on the table is served, you may proceed with having food and drinks. ‘Prost!’ (cheers!) or ‘Zum Wohl (to your health!)’ are the commonly used terms while toasting.
2. Use of Cutlery
Europeans generally use fork with the left and knife with the right hand. Both, the knife and fork must not be kept on the plate, unless you have finished eating. If you’re dining at a fancy restaurant, chances are, that you’ll encounter additional knives, spoons and forks. In such a scenario, move inward from the outside for each course. Cut your meal into bite-sized pieces and not all at once. Sandwiches and pizzas too are eaten with a fork and a knife, unless you are in an informal setting. To avoid goof ups, do not order something that you’d find difficult to eat.
3. Of hands and elbows
Both hands must always be on the table. Understandable, since at all times you will have the knife and fork in your hands. However, if you were to engage in a conversation during your meal, place the used cutlery on your plate and not on the table. Resting elbows on the table is usually not the way to go.
4. Discussing business
Unlike the French, German meals do not last as long, and discussions with respect to business are usually kept for last, if at all. If your host initiates a conversation on these lines, you could then reciprocate and follow in that direction.
5. Paying of bills & tips
The host generally pays the bill as well as the tip. In other cases, it also depends on a person’s rank, as titles are of great importance in the German business culture. Be sure to show your gratitude by thanking the host.
6. Checking of mobile phones
It is wise to keep your phone on silent or even to switch it off, as Germans do not use cell phones while dining, whether it be at home or during business lunches. In case of an emergency call, it is advised to politely excuse yourself and take the call ideally away from the table.
7. Being late
Germans are known to be punctual, precise and organized in their dealings. It is disrespectful to be late for a meeting or business lunch , without informing your host. To remain on the safer end, it would be best to arrive early.
German is one of the top 10 business languages of the world, and as mentioned earlier, it is one of the key countries that exports machinery, chemicals, etc. Their business calendar is occupied all throughout the year which can be seen in the list of German Trade Fairs for 2016. This is done so as to open the doors for international cooperation and exchange.
It then becomes imperative to acquaint oneself with the country’s culture and reality to help create and foster long running business relationships.