Investor`s choice Aug 20, 2020

Business practices in Bavaria: etiquette tips and tricks

Our Business Etiquette for Bavaria describes professional manners and dress codes and provides general tips for business meetings and business meals. In this article you will learn how these business practices are handled in Bavaria and how you can avoid putting your foot in your mouth in Bavaria.

Etiquette: Where does the term actually come from?

The English word "Business" is also common in Bavaria and generally refers to the business world, but where does “Knigge”, the German word for etiquette, actually come from? 
When Adolf Freiherr von Knigge wrote his work "On Human Relations" in 1788, he wanted to help citizens get by at court. However, what the baron wanted to express with his book corresponds to something different to what is used today. Instead of being associated with good table manners, he described how to deal with people of different characters and in different social contexts. After numerous posthumous revisions though, his book eventually resembled a primer on decency. Today the word "Knigge", as his famous book is also called, is a synonym for etiquette in Germany. 

Business meetings in Bavaria: from small talk to culinary delights and all kinds of small gifts

Small talk

A typical business practice, whether it’s in Bavaria or anywhere else in the world, is small talk. But what is the quickest way to warm to a business partner – in particular in Bavaria? Correct, by speaking their language! This applies to both foreign and domestic business partners. The Bavarians are extremely proud of their culture and if they were allowed to, they would probably already be a state in their own right. It is good to talk about other topics than work, especially during business meals. Break the ice by talking about features specific to the state. Different dialects and the variety of languages in Bavaria is not just a safe topic, it also lightens up the mood. Why don't you impress your company with a few phrases in Bavarian dialect? We have summarised some examples for you in our Bavarian Business Etiquette:

  • Servus [z œ ɐ̯ v ʊ s  ] = Hello, Bye
  • Griaß di (God) [g ʁ i: a: s   d i:   (g ɔ t)] = Hello
  • Wiederschaun [v i: d ɐ ʃ aʊ n ], Pfiat di (God) [pf i: a t   d i:   (g ɔ t)  ] = Goodbye
  • Habedehr(e) [ h a: b ə d e: h ʁ ə  ], gfraid me [g f ʁ ɛ: t   m ə ]= It was, is a pleasure
  • Dangschee [d a ŋ s ʃ e:] = Thank you
  • Wos mägst? [v o: s   m ɛ: k s t]  = Excuse me? 
  • Hock di her da! [h ɔ k   d i:   h e: ɐ   d a:] = Sit with us
  • Do legst di nieda! [d ɔ   l e: k s t   d i:   n i: d a: ] = Gosh (an expression of astonishment)
  • An Guadn [a n   g ʊ a: d n ] = Enjoy your meal
  • Bassd scho  [b a s s t   ʃ ɔ] = Everything’s OK 

The Bavarians love their traditional dress and customs! The national pride even goes so far that the internationally known Lederhosen are also not just worn at folk festivals. The Bavarian traditional dress has become indispensable in business life too, especially in the start-up world: for example, events such as the Bits & Pretzels contribute to the fact that Lederhosen and Dirndl can increasingly be worn as business outfits. During the Oktoberfest or strong beer festivals as well as folk festivals, it is also usual to come to the office in traditional dress (and then move on afterwards). However, this depends heavily on the sector. So if you want to appear professional, you should observe the rules of business etiquette – Bavaria or no Bavaria. For example, the suit and possibly a tie for men and the three-piece suit for women are still present in business life. 

Time management
Punctuality is perhaps not necessarily typically Bavarian, but definitely typically German. It is one of the most important business practices in Bavaria as well as in any other federal state. Bavarian hosts and business partners expect you to be on time. Anyone who arrives late for a business meeting should not only have a good reason, but also ensure that it does not happen again. There is a simple but logical explanation why the Germans are so inflexible with fixed deadlines: if you start on time, you can finish work sooner.

In Bavaria "Servus" is both a greeting and a farewell phrase. "Grias di God" or "Grüß Gott" is again very common among the older generation. Although these are definitely not business practices, one or two expressions like "Kruzifixsakrament" (God damn it) may slip out of even a seasoned company boss in Bavaria. This "Grantelei" (grouchiness) may seem unfriendly or even harsh, but it's not as bad as it sounds. Cursing is simply part of the mentality in Bavaria. And anyone who knows the Bavarians better, also knows: The word "Depp" (fool) is also seen as a well-meaning form of address in Bavaria. The fact is: The Bavarians may seem short and vain, but at heart they are very friendly "Laid" (people). The Bavarians like to grumble a lot, but they are also very open to conversation – however small the occasion.

Culinary delights 
One thing's for sure: food is at least as important as the welcome in Bavaria. Therefore, it is not unusual to have lunch with business partners at a business meeting. Traditionally Bavarian, of course, for example in a beer garden. There are a few things to note here: The classics of Bavarian cuisine are knuckle of pork or the Franconian Schäufele. However, as they are difficult to eat and often leave the odd stain or two on your shirt, it is advisable to stick to pretzels or other culinary delicacies – your business partner is sure to be able to give you some tips! 

Little gifts
In many countries, for example in Asia, it is good manners to give a gift to a business partner. This is not necessarily the case in Bavaria. However, everyone is happy to receive a small gift. It is best to choose something typical or particularly original for your country. It does not have to cost a great deal, the compliance rules apply. 

Infographic - Business practices in Bavaria
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