10 Proverbs that Help Explain German Business Culture

Understanding German business culture is a study of its own. Germans differ from their US counterparts significantly because they maintain a separation between their business lives and private lives — they work hard and they play hard. Read below for a list of German proverbs and how they help you understand German business culture.

1. Aller Anfang ist schwer.

Literal translation: “All beginnings are hard.”

What it means to German business: When you’re starting something from scratch, it’s not easy. Germans respect entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit. German business people know that initial business meetings and negotiations may not go smoothly.

2. Des Teufels liebstes Möbelstück ist die lange Bank.

Literal translation: “The devil’s favorite piece of furniture is the long bench.”

What it means to German business: In German, putting something on the “long bench” means putting it off (etwas auf die lange Bank schieben). German business people don’t procrastinate, or at least they try not to. They work hard and they play hard and they keep work and play separate.

3. Wer rastet, der rostet.

Literal translation: “He who rests grows rusty.”

What it means to German business: This saying states that in order to improve your skills, you have to continuously work on them. German business people respect continuous learning and education. That’s why you must include any education past a bachelor’s degree on your business cards.

4. Anfangen ist leicht, Beharren eine Kunst.

Literal translation: “Starting is easy, persistence is an art.”

What it means to German business: it’s much easier to start a project than it is to see it through till the end. German business people have a strong work ethic and believe in completing projects.

5. Aus Schaden wird man klug.

Literal translation: “Failure makes smart.”

What it means to German business: This is the same as the English phrase learn from your mistakes. German business people are very practical and waste no knowledge.

6. Das Billige ist immer das Teuerste.

Literal translation: “The cheapest is always the most expensive.”?

What it means to German business: German people like to invest in quality. In the long run something that wears out will be more expensive; German business people consider price only as it relates to quality, not as it relates to your competitor’s prices.

7. Du siehst den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht.

Literal translation: “You don’t see the forest for all the trees.”

What it means to German business: Keep your eye on the big picture. German business people will forgive mistakes if the overarching relationship and plan for business are solid.

8. Erst denken, dann handeln.

Literal translation: “First think, then act.”

What it means to German business: Although Germans believe that taking action is very important, it is important also to take the right action. In negotiation, German business people are very direct but it is important to recognize that they are also deliberate and don’t rush to make decisions.

9. Morgenstund hat Gold im Mund.

Literal translation: “The morning hour has gold in its mouth.”

What it means to German business: This saying is the equivalent of the early bird gets the worm. German business people think it’s important to rise early and get to work and also to be very punctual.

10. Kümmere Dich nicht um ungelegte Eier.

Literal translation: “Don’t worry about eggs that haven’t been laid yet.”

What it means to German business: Although this phrase sounds like “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” the two phrases have slightly different meanings. The English one implies that you should not rely on expectations, while the German phrase suggests that you should not worry about things you can’t control. German business people think that time spent worrying and thinking should be used productively.

Another way to strengthen your business relationship with your German counterpart is to use Veem. Veem uses a multi-rail system to make international wire transfers that are insured, safe, fast, and as easy as sending an email.

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