Germany is part of the European Union (EU), so it is required to abide by EU trade regulations. Germany is one of Australia's key business partners when it comes to trade, investment and tourism, and the two countries have enjoyed a profitable relationship over the years. Germany is also one of the top sources of foreign investment in Australia.
Germans are highly experienced in conducting international business and, in many ways, operate similarly to Australians. However, Germans place higher importance on hierarchy and formality. In business settings, always refer to someone as Mr. or Ms., never by his or her first name.
Suits are standard business attire or conservative dresses or blouses for women. Germans tend to be conservative in their colour choices as well, so stick with dark, neutral colours like black, grey and navy. Always keep your jacket on until your host removes his or hers.
In arranging meetings, try to give at least six weeks' notice, especially if you are meeting with high-level executives. Punctuality is very important in Germany, so always show up to meetings a bit early. If you are going to be late for any reason, try to give as much advance notice as possible.
Summer is not a good time to try to arrange meetings, as many Europeans, including Germans, take time off work to go on holiday. Avoid requesting meetings in July and August for this reason. It is important to note that many businesses close around Christmas and the New Year as well.
Thanks to a long history of conducting international business, most Germans speak English. However, it is still best to check with your host as a show of courtesy. Germans take business very seriously and believe that humour is not appropriate in the workplace, so try to refrain from using Australian slang or humour during meetings. They believe in strict division between their work and personal lives, so keep this in mind.
Business hours in Germany are from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, but many businesses close early on Fridays. Some government offices may keep different hours, so check with each individually. Shops typically stay open until 6:00 or 8:00 p.m. A few open on Saturdays, but most are closed Sundays. In summer, Germany is 8 hours behind Australia's eastern time zone. In winter, this jumps to 10 hours behind.
As it is part of the EU, Germany's currency is the euro, available in coins and notes. ATMs are common, and most major credit cards are widely accepted, including Visa, MasterCard and American Express. However, Germans tend to prefer paying with cash, and many retailers do not accept cards. It is best to always have some cash to hand, particularly in smaller cities.
Germany's climate can fluctuate, so travellers are advised to be prepared for all weather. The period from May to October tends to have the most temperate weather. Winter can get very cold with temperatures often dropping below freezing, particularly in the eastern parts of the country.
Germany's electricity is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-prong plugs are the most widely used.
Visa requirements can vary depending on the length and nature of your visit, so be sure to check with your local German Embassy or Consulate before travelling. As with any international travel, you will be required to have a valid passport.
Germany has several major international airports, but Frankfurt is the most commonly used when travelling from Australia. Domestic flights are readily available to allow for easy transfer between Germany's major cities. Train travel is also common and relatively inexpensive. If you will be travelling on the weekend or during a trade fair, it is best to book your travel in advance to ensure a seat.
In most cities, public transport is your best and most economical option. Taxis are also widely available, but be advised that some do not take credit cards. Fares are metered. You can hail taxis on the street, hire them from taxi ranks, or call for one from your hotel.
For those seeking a bit more of a thrill, you may wish to hire a car and drive on Germany's extensive network of highways, called the autobahn. It is important to note that rural areas do not usually have posted speed limits, and Germans tend to drive very fast in these areas. Around cities, the speed limit is typically around 130 km/hr.
Tipping is customary in Germany for services received, including restaurants, hotels and taxis. About 5 to 10 percent is usually appropriate. Base the amount on the quality of service.
Germany offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit your needs and budget, particularly in larger cities. Smaller cities tend to have less availability, so it is best to book in advance.
German restaurants run the gamut from local cuisine to global fare. Typically, meals are served a la carte, meaning you order and pay separately for your main and any side items. While in Germany, don't miss the chance to sample the many delicious German beers with your meals. Serving water with meals is not common, so you must specifically ask.
Germany is home to a variety of tourist attractions, including many historic castles and cathedrals. Lovers of history will enjoy checking out the remains of the Berlin Wall and the Old Quarter of Dresden. Visitors travelling around Christmas will love the wide range of Christmas markets throughout the country where you can buy a variety of handcrafted toys and Christmas ornaments. Germany contains many natural wonders as well, including a variety of National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Beer lovers can get excited about Oktoberfest in Munich, the country's first beer festival. Even if it is not September or October, when the festival is held, visitors can still enjoy drinking a brew in traditional German biergartens. Sit next to some strangers and make some new friends while you're at it!