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How to Avoid Offending Germans, Swiss, and Austrians in Negotiations

How to avoid offending germans swiss and austrians in negotiations

Germans, Swiss, and Austrians are all people who speak German. Yet international negotiation expert Mihai Isman points out that despite the shared language, each culture negotiates quite differently.

For example, the Swiss prefer to avoid conflict in negotiations and are oriented toward harmony. The Swiss excel at extracting the best deals from their opponents without appearing demanding or aggressive. They are confident in their products and services—but they are expensive. If you want Swiss quality, you pay the price for it.

Austrians are the most formal of the three countries. You should avoid using first names and address them by their formal titles. They understand if you use their first names if you’re not from Europe. However, it shows that you’re unprepared.

They are less oriented around facts and introduce more personal details in conversation. They tend to promise more than what they can deliver and fall short of German reliability. If a German promises something, they will do it. Austrians avoid confrontation, but their agreeableness will disappear if you corner them.

Knowing this, there are a few things you should keep in mind to avoid offending Germans, Swiss, and Austrians in a negotiation. What are they?

How to avoid offending a German person

Mihai shares a list of things to avoid in a German negotiation:

  • Don’t display too much eccentricity
  • Don’t interrupt them or be disrespectful
  • Don’t oversimplify things in the negotiation
  • Don’t overdo small talk; They like facts, figures, and reliable information
  • Separate the personal relationship from the business relationship
  • Don’t be too emotional in a negotiation
  • Don’t bargain too hard; listen and try to understand their position
  • Do not be late for meetings

Punctuality is a German obsession. Get there early so you don’t make someone wait. If you are late, apologize profusely. A true German negotiator cannot stand to be late.

Lastly, most Germans aren’t comfortable with negotiating with honor cultures (i.e. many Asian cultures). They don’t know how to handle losing face/giving face, especially because losing face can be very subjective, and they don’t know how to navigate it.

Mihai was born in Romania and moved to Germany when he was a teenager. His wife says that he can be more German than most Germans. The moment that your parents leave the hospital as a baby, you already have your culture instilled in you. How they do everything is a matter of culture.

How to avoid offending a Swiss negotiator

Moving on to the Swiss, what should you avoid?

  • Do not let a Swiss Negotiator see you bored. They like dialogue and trying to understand the other side. So if you don’t show interest, they’ll question why they’re there.
  • Don’t break their rules or regulations.
  • Don’t schedule outside standard business hours. The Swiss live in a beautiful country and love their free time.

The Swiss can be fairly easygoing.

How to avoid offending an Austrian negotiator

Here are the dos and don’ts for negotiating with Austrians:

  • Avoid being too direct; they prefer diplomatic behavior and a more sophisticated negotiation style
  • Don’t confuse them for German people (this can completely derail your outcome)
  • Don’t rush the negotiation
  • Respect their titles and education

The percentage of people in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland that have Master’s Degrees is incredibly high (probably because education is free).

What else do you need to know about Germanic negotiation?

If you are honest, negotiate in good faith, and prepare for their culture, a negotiation with German speakers will go well. They will love it if you know how to negotiate with them. Prepare to play the game their way. You can’t change the rules of the game, but you can change how you play the game.

How are you prepared? What will they like or dislike? What would they appreciate? What makes you more trustworthy? Everything matters. Even though multiple countries speak the same language, the way you interact with the people can be drastically different.

If you are culturally aware and prepared, you can adjust your behavior to reach your goals. You can also predict behavior. People will behave according to their culture. Lastly, if you’re culturally prepared, you can avoid offending—or being offended by—the other party (which will destroy the negotiation process).

Listen to episode #371 of Negotiations Ninja for an even deeper understanding of negotiating with German-speaking countries.