With the largest economy in Europe, Germany is one of the world’s top three exporters — making German a business language that’s tough to beat in terms of benefits, opportunity, and profitability.
Rich in both natural and human-made resources, Germany is not only a culturally and historically influential country, but a worldwide economic powerhouse as well. Read on to discover six key German phrases perfect for networking in Germany’s efficient, no-nonsense business culture.
1. “Bitte. (BITuh)” — You're welcome.
The German word bitte is the jack-of-all-trades. If you use it as a reply to danke [thanks], it means ‘you're welcome.’ You can also use bitte to mean ‘please’ when requesting something. Get comfortable with this word, as it comes up naturally in many German conversations.
2. “Freut mich, Sie kennen zu lernen, Herr Richter. (froyt mish, zee KENen tsoo LAIRnen, hair RISHtah.)” — Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Richter.
In German business culture, it is very important to address people respectfully. The German language has two ways of addressing someone, both formal and informal, so it’s a must that you know which one to choose.
Sie, the formal way to say ‘you,’ is the safe choice in business and networking situations. Start off on the right foot by using Sie and either Herr [Mr.] or Frau [Ms.], plus their last name, when taking part in German introductions. If someone holds a specific title, make sure to use it. For example, Frau Doktor (for a female doctor) or Herr Doktor (for a male doctor), plus their last name.
3. “Erklären Sie mir das bitte mal! (airKLAIren zee meer dus BITuh mahl!)” — Explain that to me, will you please?
German business conversations are very direct and to the point. So, there’s no use in beating around the bush when you have a question or would like something explained. With a phrase like this, you can ask for clarification and avoid miscommunications.
In this sentence, the word mal is used to soften the tone of the request, making it seem more friendly. Particles like mal don’t have an exact meaning but are very powerful in expressing a speaker’s attitude, opinions, or emotions. Take a big step towards understanding colloquial German by checking out our German course and make sure you are picking up on these small, but essential details.
4. “Lassen Sie uns anfangen. Es ist schon fünf nach neun. (LAHSen zee oons UNfahngen. es ist shohn fewnf nahkh noyn.)” — Let's begin. It's already five past nine.
Germany’s reputation as a punctual nation precedes itself! Make sure you can keep up with a phrase like this one. Whether you're just getting your foot in the door or heading an international conference call, you’ll impress those around you by being on time and ready to go. (If you’re curious about other aspects of German culture, take a look at our post on 10 tips for traveling in Germany.)
5.“Die Verbindung scheint sehr schlecht zu sein. Können Sie mich hören? (dee fairBINdoong shynt zair shlesht tsoo zine. KERnen zee mish HERen?)” — The connection seems to be very bad. Can you hear me?
No matter how prepared you are, there’s always a chance for technological difficulties. If you're on a call with Germany and the signal starts to drop or the connection isn’t clear, use this phrase to make sure the folks on the other end of the line can hear you.
BONUS: “Wir freuen uns auf die Zusammenarbeit mit Ihnen. Auf Wiedersehen! (veer FROYen oons owf dee tsooZUMenahrbite mit EEnen. owf VEEdaZAYen!)” — We look forward to collaborating with you. Goodbye!
Bonus phrase for those ahead of the game. Already closed the deal? Gut gemacht! [Good job!] Now, you can let your new business partner know you’re looking forward to working with them by using this pleasant salutation. Remember, saying goodbye in German requires you to keep your current manner of communication in mind, as your situation affects the right phrase for you to use.
Are you video chatting? Great — you can go ahead and say Auf Wiedersehen, which translates literally to ‘until we see each other again’. But are you simply calling in and voice chatting? Then make sure to use the phrase Auf Wiederhören [until we hear each other again] instead. The way you say goodbye in German always reflects how you’re talking at that moment, not what you might do in the future.
Whether it’s cars, shoes, beer, or bread — the world loves German products — and the country’s reputation for being an economic heavyweight is well deserved. Ready to start taking your German networking skills to the next level? Click the link below to access our linguist-created German course, built to prepare you for real-life scenarios with grammar rules, culture notes, pronunciation help, and native-speaker dialogue.
What other phrases do you think are important for doing business in German? Share them with us in the comments!