Continuing in this series of doing business with Germans, here are 3 things to avoid when working with Germans--and what to do instead!
1. Do not use "du."
Germans are used to keeping their professional distance, which is a helpful benefit of using the formal you form "Sie." In the US Americans toss around "du" and use first names for practically everyone except school teachers. Even when you greet someone you've never met, say waitstaff at a restaurant, their nametag references their first name, not their last name. We are very casual in using others' first names, especially if it is someone in our same age group; this is not exactly the same for Germans (although some younger people would certainly switch to "du" right away, even at work).
If you have trouble remembering which to use when, make sure you practice "Sie" with your German teacher and in dealings with other Germans. Use "Sie" and Herr/Frau + the last name of every one of your fellow students. You could even start thinking of every woman as "Frau" and every man as "Herr" if that helps.
2. Don't bring up the Nazis.
It can be a hard topic to avoid in Germany where, as I like to say, history is hautnah (very close to your skin). Germans spent the second half of the 20th Century rebuilding their country and creating an impressive infrastructure, repairing damaged and demolished buildings and trying to make sense of what happened (work that goes on today). Everybody knows what the Nazis did, however there is a way to recognize this without speaking about it directly.