5 Mealtime Etiquette Tips For Your Business Lunch in Germany

Knowing how to conduct yourself on a business lunch in Germany will go a long way to solidifying your reputation in the eyes of your business partner. The nation that prides itself in efficiency and work-place excellence applies that same enthusiasm when it comes to food. German dishes are delicious and world renowned. German eating habits aren’t as popular, but not to worry, that’s what we are here for.

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Photo by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

1. Every meal starts with a greeting

“Guten Appetit” is the standard opening meal greeting. It means ‘enjoy your meal’ or ‘have a good appetite’. This will be announced by your host before you start devouring your delicious servings of Käsespätzle, Sauerbraten, Bratwurst or whatever other delicacy you are presented with.

2. Eat your sandwich with a knife and fork

The proper way of eating a sandwich in Germany without getting any odd stares is with a fork and knife. However if your business lunch is informal and you are grabbing a Brezn (pretzel) sandwich on the roadside, you may be permitted to use your hands. Interestingly enough, potatoes should not be cut with a knife. This suggests that the potatoes were undercooked, meaning the chef didn’t do a good job.

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Photo by Reiner Kraft

3. No business at the table

Germans are not accustomed to spending too much time at the meal table. Business discussions are therefore either left until the end of the meal or not at all. If your host brings up the topic then you are free to oblige. Mealtime is a bonding experience, so expect most discussions to be about family.

4. Always finish your food

A clean plate is a sign of a well-enjoyed meal. If you do not finish your food it is interpreted as a criticism of the chef. It is therefore advisable to choose smaller portions for meals you are unsure of. The Sauerbraten mentioned earlier is a classic German pot roast and it is as delightful as it sounds. However, it is traditionally made with horse meat, so you’d be best to start off small to make sure you enjoy the plate, and later give your compliments to the chef.

5. Be on time

This is good business sense in general, but it is even more pertinent in Germany. There is no such thing as ‘fashionably late’ in Germany, as they tend to be very organised. It is advisable to be at the given location a few minutes ahead of time. This shows that you value their time and are respectful of their customs.

These are the tips you’ll need to make your business lunch an exceptional experience. Your hosts will be dazzled by your mastery of their culture and you’ll be treated like one of the locals, hopefully. Your trip to Germany will be a lot more enjoyable if you can speak the language. This will help you bond quicker with your business partners and before you know it you’ll be on a first name basis. Take our German language level test to find out how good you already are, or contact us to start taking lessons.

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