Make your online presence fit in with the German market

A guide to localisation for Germany

1 Overview

We’ve created this guide to help you get closer to your German customers. A web presence that is in tune with the German culture will make your customers feel well disposed to you, and give them confidence in doing business with you. Get the little details right, and you'll be in a good position right from the start in your new market.

2 The main language

German is the main spoken and written language in Germany.

A 2012 European Commission study found that 56% of Germans say they can speak and read English.

3 Formality

Should you be formal or informal when addressing your customers?

In German, most products are written about in an informal way. At times this can verge on playful. Products with this informality include YouTube, Gmail, and Google Play.

If you have a financial product, a legal service, or are talking about money, you should adopt a more formal tone and style.

4 Numbering systems and formats

Numerals

Decimal separator

This is a comma (,)
e.g. 1,5 hours.

Thousands and decimals

The thousand separator is a full stop (.),
e.g. 1.524 people.

Telephone numbers

Telephone numbers are usually in the format of a country code and a city code:
(+49) 30 12345678.

Without the country code the number is:
030 12345678

Mobile numbers start with 0151:
0151 1234567

Mobile numbers with a country code follow this format:
+49 151 1234567

Freephone numbers are usually:
0800 2 123456, or
0180 5 1234567.

5 Currency format

The Germans trade in Euros. This is represented by the euro symbol and its trading three letter code EUR. The € is placed after the figure. The coin denomination is the cent represented by a c.

The note denominations are 500€ 200€100€ 50€ 20€ 10€.
The coin denominations are 2€, 1€, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c and 1c.

In all contracts it is compulsory to write a financial amount in the following format: 200 EUR, e.g. “the amount owed is 200 EUR.”

6 Dates and times

Date and time formats

In Germany the date format is DD/MM/YYYY when there is no risk of confusing the day with the month. A dot is used to separate the numbers, e.g. 24.03.2017.

The date can also be written in the following format:
YYYY-MM-DD
2017-09-08

This should be used if there is a chance the day and month could be confused. It is mainly used for international communications.

7 Hour formats

In Germany the 24-hour format is used in both written and spoken contexts.

The 24-hour format is favoured on digital devices like PCs, phones, tablets, etc. and is the standard format on Android where the separator is a colon, e.g. 14:24.

8 Working days

Standard working days are Monday to Friday.

9 Things to avoid in Germany

Every culture has different superstitions and traditions which are always worth noting, especially when entering a new market.

The Germans consider it very unlucky to say “happy birthday” to someone before it’s their birthday.

10 Important rules

Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in no time:

  1. Take a note of differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements and terminology

  2. Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the German market. For example, local slang

  3. Take account of cultural differences so you don’t confuse or offend your German audience. For example, don’t mention Boxing Day in a promotion or assume that it will be understood

  4. Give as much context as possible to assist your translator, let them know the purpose of your communication and its target audience. Provide visuals to show where the text is going to be, and use a native speaker to check your communications

  5. Sound like a local by avoiding being too literal and formal in your translation

11 Additional guidelines

Discover how to ensure your website is local in tone and language in our website localisation guide.