Germany has been France’s premier trading partner for many years, both in terms of buying and selling.
This can be explained by the proximity of these two major European neighbours, the appeal of the two markets and their complementary know-how.
In Germany, organization is decentralised into territories with 16 Bundesländer (Federal States), which is different to the way things work in France. This decentralised organisation is echoed in the German economic fabric with a large number of medium-sized companies (Mittelstand), which are also very often family-owned. These companies come together to swap ideas and defend their common interests.
With a territory 2/3 the size of mainland France, Germany has 83 million inhabitants (2018). That’s more than 25% more inhabitants than mainland France. Population density per km2 in Germany is almost twice as high (232 inhabitants/km2) as in mainland France (117 inhabitants/km2). While this figure may be theoretical given that the population is not evenly distributed throughout the country, it does point to potential competitive pressure. In the German economy, a particular feature of many companies is that they tend to specialise in a specific field and strive to become better than their competitors, and even the best in their field of business.
Germany has many “Hidden Champions” who are world references. This competitive spirit drives Germans to constantly upgrade and develop their services and products. This is why so many international trade shows are held in Germany, such as “BAU” (Construction – Building) in Munich, “ISH” (Water & Energy – Building), “Smarter E-Europe” (renewable energies) in Frankfurt, and “Hannover Messe” (Industry 4.0) in Hannover, etc
Technology and cost effectiveness are essential for German consumers. A service provision or product has to live up to its price, and not the other way round.
To reach German customers, language must be taken into account as a mirror of the prevailing culture. Differences between Latins and Germans can quickly become obstacles to relationships, and thus to business. For instance: business lunches In France you invite your customer to lunch to do business. In Germany you invite your customer to lunch when you’ve done business … or not. Lunch doesn’t mean the same thing in Germany as in France. Some people consider a lunch a waste of time. Because Germans have a monochronic relationship with time, the working day is linear and compartmentalised. Arrive 15 minutes late for an appointment, as is usual in France, and discussion will start on a bad note in Germany. In fact, a delay disturbs the German counterpart’s schedule of the day and he or she feels “robbed” of their time. During discussion, the German communication style focuses on substance, which may offend the French counterpart, who will attach more importance to form (French diplomacy). Precise answers are expected to be given to specific questions.