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. By understanding these little yet important details, 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.
According to EF English Proficiency Index 2018 report, Germany ranks at number 10 out of 88 countries.
Should you be formal or informal when addressing your German 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.
Ease of doing business in Germany
The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2019 report ranked Germany as 24th out of 190 countries.
4 Numbering systems and formats
- This is a comma (,) – e.g. 1,5 hours.
- The thousand separator is a full stop (.),
- e.g. 1.524 people.
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.
- e.g. 0151 1234567
Mobile numbers with a country code follow this format:
- e.g. +49 151 1234567
Freephone numbers are usually: 0800 2 123456
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€ 5€.
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 format
In Germany the date format is DD/MM/YYYY. A dot is often used to separate the numbers, e.g. 24.03.2017.
7 Hour formats
In Germany the 24-hour format is used in both written and spoken contexts.
The 24-hour format is favored 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 localisation tips
Here are the top five translation tips that will make you sound like a local in German market in no time:
Take a note of differences in spelling, punctuation, pricing, date formats, measurements and terminology.
Stay clear of colloquialisms and expressions used in your language, as they may not translate in the German market. For example, local slang.
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.
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.
Sound like a local by avoiding being too literal and formal in your translation.