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Global DiVision Business Etiquette


Auto response

A long time ago

Before the invention of the internet, there was a time in our professional life where we received many of our answers to questions we posed with delays of many days. In today’s time we get antsy and nervous when we have to wait for hours once we have hit sent to our communications. To quiet our nerves and minds programmers have developed the auto response and out of the office tool. This tool can inform clients effectively – or, can drive them insane while typing a message.

The main task of the auto response should be solely that same as a person who would do the same as the friendly employee who used to be the receptionist. The information provided can be the absence for a vacation of a colleague with the information of when he/she will return. Furthermore, we can read and find out who might be the person to talk to during his/her absence for urgent cases.

What is important?
Be brief and spare your client’s time. He/she has found out that you are not in the office once they receive the out of the office email. When you have left is not really relevant. They are not interested to find out why you are out of the office. Information that might be helpful is:

  • When are you back to conduct business?
  • Who can assist further during your absence (name and contact information of the relevant contact)
  • Provide information if the mail received will be forwarded or not
  • Are you reachable should there be an urgent need?

Once is enough
Do you have clients who are sending you orders or other important documents while you are absent many times and with different methods? You can program the auto response in a way that the message will only be sent out once, once is enough. The same goes that the receptionist does not inform the mailman that Mr. X is out of the office until the 19 twice a day for two weeks and won’t be able to open up the mail during his absence. Too much information might be an overload for your client’s inbox or the mailman’s ears might be clogged. Such information overflow requires too much time and energy as they also need to be read, processed and then deleted.

Sample text for an auto response for your E-Mail messages

  • Brief and objectively:
    Dear Madam or Sir,
    thanks for your message. I will be back in the office as of February, 15. During my absence please address any inquiries to Ms. Gaby Muster, telephone +49 0815 or e-mail Ms. Muster will be pleased to assist you.


Bread as a substitute for a knife?

Is the Saying ‘Who Needs a Knife if There’s Enough Bread’ Correct?

It is often said that bread can be used as a stylish alternative to a knife. But is that correct? Can we, for example, really use bread to eat salad? Or can we use a knife instead? Because salad leaves are often pretty big.

In Germany, Bread Is Not a Substitute for a Knife
In simple restaurants in France it is commonplace to use baguette bread as a “shovel” – for example to mop up salad dressing. While it is true that intercultural dialog is resulting in behavioral changes, Germany and some other countries are, however, (still) not ready to adopt this practice. Bread is no substitute for a knife.

The general rule is:
Salad may be eaten with a knife and fork at present. You can – assuming the leaves aren’t too big – also just use a fork. In some circles this is even considered better manners. When you’re done with eating, place the unused knife on the plate so that the waiter can remove it with the rest of the flatware.

Business cards

Card Game

Should you hand out business cards like promotional gifts so that at least the revenue of the print shops increases? “Careful” warns the book on business etiquette from Global Division, because that very quickly violates a variety of points of etiquette and in some circumstances you many end up stepping on the toes of your customers or hosts.

  • Even today, the guest presents his business card first, and only afterwards is it the host’s turn.
  • This exchange of cards happens at the beginning of each encounter. That way, all parties know with whom they are dealing.

What should be on neutral territory?

Coincidental encounters in the foyer, meeting at a trade fair or at another neutral location: Who is to be the first to “let the cat out of the bag” and disclose his name, rank and company affiliation with a business card?

  • It’s quite easy: In this case, the customer is also king and is on the same level as the host from Victorian England. He should find out first who his counterpart is.
  • The same thing applies to the one who is higher ranking. You introduce yourself to him personally or with a business card or – even better – have yourself introduced by a third party in case of any doubt. Generally, the colleague who the customer or host already knows makes the introduction – and thereby creates a good opportunity to pass the business card immediately thereafter.

Everything at the proper time

To make sure that the risk of bothersome customer acquisition calls doesn’t get in the way of confidence-building measures at the first contact, one shouldn’t overdo the speed of the “data exchange”. It isn’t a sport to pull a business card out of your pocket as quickly as possible for a potential customer – rather it is a decision for which one should wait. If the desire to actually stay in touch arises in the conversation, then some elucidating words are called for – for example:

  • “If you should have any questions about this topic, then feel free to call me. Here is my card.”
  • “I will clarify what can be done. I would be happy to give you my contact information. If it is more convenient for you, then I can call you.”
  • “I might be able to help find a solution to the problem … Here is my card in any case.”
  • “I would like to stay in contact. Here is my card.”
Business Miss Manners: It’s not what you say but how you say it

It’s not what you say but how you say it

Quite often, assertiveness is confused with aggressiveness. Today, unfair attacks, manipulation and disrespect replace good arguments and skillful diplomacy.

With our Business Miss Manners you won’t fall into the justification trap anymore, instead you will react confidently and competently in all situations. “Whoever shouts, is in the wrong” was often said in the past – and effectively one has the feeling today that a particularly self-confident, offensive manner – often paired with personal attacks and doubtful vocabulary – only testifies a lack of substance of the lecture.

Just to make things clear: politeness and clear speech do not exclude each other. Anyone who sends a clear message and does not forget polite interaction and diplomacy in the process, stays on track confidently in every situation.






Your boss shouts at you

You shout back and justify yourself

Your boss wants to attack you

You mirror your boss’ behavior: “Do you feel good when you shout at me like that?”

Your boss is overtaxed and forgot himself. You can appeal to his sense of shame.

Your colleague never puts his cup in the dishwasher

You’re annoyed and put it in for him.

It could come to a dispute – that’s not worth it for such a minor matter.

You word a request: “Would you please put your cup into the dishwasher as well?”

For whatever reason: your colleague obviously needs a nudge to change his behavior.

Your colleague threatens you with the works council.

You allow yourself to be intimidated

The arguments of the colleague are better than yours. You are responsible for the salvation of others.

You stay with the topic: “Dear John Smith, the decision has been made.”

You made a good decision.

Extra Tip:
Expletives intimidate the counterpart – arguments convince. When you combine good arguments with a good choice of words and add a “Please” and Thank you” here and there, you stand up to the “verbal modern-day Rambo” in every situation.


Buzzwords or Can You Hear What You Are Actually Saying?

Buzzwords Language has always been a means to distinguish the speaker from others. Foreign words, anglicisms, scientific jargon, legalese – the list is endless when describing the way in which we speak not only to communicate but also to clarify status.

In an era in which everyone wants to be young, hip, and cool, a raft of words and expressions have come into being that can actually only be used if we don’t listen closely to ourselves.

“Please send me an email about this” or, as the next escalation level, “Let’s sync on this”. In reality all this means is that your dialog partner has failed to pay the slightest attention to what you said and is asking you to tell them again in writing.
That doesn’t bother you? Or as Germans may say, you’re “fine damit”? Those of us who feel uncomfortable with such a mishmash of languages should simply change over to English, proving that we are “on the same page” as everyone else – a much better idea! Another illustration of the way that English and German are currently being combined is “asap”. This amusing abbreviation of “as soon as possible”, a joke that had already become unfunny in the 1990’s, has done more than satisfy the deep-seated German obsession with space-saving abbreviations. No, it has become a superlative that is also used as a comparative. Something that is more urgent than “asap” is “asaper” and if that is still not forceful enough, Germans can ask for something “asapest”.

So please – listen to yourself occasionally and correct the expressions you use asap. This would be a win-win situation that everyone is fine with. Of course, we can also sync on this – simply write us. Go for it. That would be awesome …

The Business Card – An Unknown Entity

The Business Card – An Unknown Entity

Die Visitenkarte – das unbekannte Wesen

The Business Card

So you think you know everything there is to know about how to use business cards? Think again! As with most other cultural rituals, what is the norm differs widely around the world.

Here in Germany it is traditional to present your business card before a meeting begins. This ensures that other participants know how your name is spelt and helps them to remember it.

On no account should a business card be damaged in any way. The recipient will take a quick look at the card before putting it away and perhaps later entering the details into his or her digital address book.

Business Cards in Other Countries

What is considered “correct” in Germany can be an embarrassing mistake elsewhere. Exchanging business cards in China and Japan, for example, is almost a ceremonial act. Always use both hands when presenting your business card to the other person. The printed side should face upwards so that it can be read immediately. Be sure to use high-quality business cards and, when receiving cards, place them on the table in front of you. Don’t put them away until the meeting has ended. On NO ACCOUNT should you make notes on business cards. This is viewed as highly disrespectful.


Codes of behaviour: What to do in a hairy situation?

What to do in a hairy situation?

What to do in a hairy situation? Imagine that you mistakenly take your boss’s wife for his daughter – how bad can that be? Ooops. You backbite about the ‘fat cat car’ in the parking lot and it turn out to be your boss owns it. Or you are making fun of the Dutch going on vacation with their trailers – you are speaking to a Dutch person!

Sometimes you are in a hairy situation that you have created unwillingly and without any bad intentions. How do you get out of it with elegance? If you are in a business setting it is wise to be on the safe side. A wise and sage advice is to be quiet and watch out for uneasy situations. It might make or break a deal. To be politically correct is not always easy but be careful and observe situations first. Think before you speak. However, if you had maneuvered yourself into a hairy situation the best way to get out of it might be to apologize for your negligible but unavoidable mistake. Honesty and sometimes humor is key to success. Take the blame on yourself and laugh at yourself. To err is human but be aware of those traps that you might fall into YOURSELF. Not the smartest way to do business in the first place.

Complain correctly

How to complain correctly

We all experience situations in which we need to complain. Very few of us, however, know the key rules for complaining successfully. The objective, at the end of the day, is not to get aggressive but instead to improve the situation in the long term. Whether your landlord refuses to carry out necessary repairs; your neighbor makes too much noise; or an employee drinks alcohol during working hours.

These kinds of situations must be resolved without breaking eggs – because, in the final instance, we want to carry on living or working with each other. Here’s how to make a successful complaint:

1. Start by taking a deep breath
Don’t make a lot of noise immediately – sleep on things. You will find that your thoughts are more structured and that you are calmer the next day. This is the time to make your complaint – factually and with a focus on finding solutions.

2. Take a long, hard look at yourself
Be self-critical. Are you assessing the situation correctly? Are there other people who can judge it more objectively? How much have you yourself contributed to the problem?
Taking this approach often helps to turn the mountain back into a molehill.

3. On no account should you get personal
You want to improve the situation – not your opposite number. Don’t be insulting, patronizing, or threatening. All of these will result in the situation escalating to the point where there is no way forward. Stay friendly and matter-of-fact and focus on your objective.

4. Say thank you
Recognize the effort your opposite number is making. Even if things are still not as they should be, show that you recognize the effort being made: “Thank you for delivering the last shipment to us so punctually. I am sure that was due to your hard work. Unfortunately, this time we have another delivery delay …”

5. Be specific!
Avoid generalizations. Don’t say “You aren’t fulfilling your obligations as the club’s chairperson”, instead give specific examples: “You cancelled the last board meeting at short notice two months ago. You still haven’t given us a new date. In addition to this, we haven’t had a summer get-together this year and a lot of the members are unhappy about this. On top of that, nothing has happened about the revamp of the webpage for weeks.”

6. In private
Don’t show anyone up in front of others. It’s not about leading your opposite number around like a dancing bear with a ring through its nose. It’s about improving the situation for the future.

Give the other person the opportunity to save face. Otherwise a public humiliation will quickly result in a continued refusal to reach an agreement. And that is exactly what we wanted to avoid …

7. Talk turkey!
When someone makes a mistake they are often unaware what exactly they have done wrong or how they can resolve the situation. So give them clear goals that both sides can use as a starting point: “I would like us to meet once a week to discuss club matters and get things done. It is your job as chairperson to send out the invitations and chair the meetings.”

8. Try to enter into a personal dialog
Take advantage of the opportunities offered by a personal dialog; physical gestures; facial expressions; accentuated words – all things that you can’t include in an email or a letter. Written statements often come across more bluntly and irrevocably. Your opposite number is unable to respond directly and you have no chance to adjust your words accordingly.

Personal confrontations require more courage, are, however, far more effective and usually result more quickly in an outcome that both sides can accept. And that is exactly what we wanted to achieve …

Condolences: Offering Condolences by Email – Yes or No?

Offering Condolences by Email – Yes or No?

You receive an email with the sad news that a business partner has passed. What now? Simply send a reply?

An Email is No Substitute for a Condolence Card

If you have received the news by email then the sender is sure to wonder if you don’t react to the information immediately. Offering condolences by email is, however, highly unusual and not recommended. Electronic communications have a matter-of-fact, impersonal feel and are most certainly not a substitute for a condolence card or letter.

You should thus make sure to express your condolences officially by postal mail. In addition to this, you can also answer the email. For example by writing something like this:

Dear Mr. / Ms.…:

I was shocked to receive your email – I am both saddened and stunned. Thank you for informing me immediately in such an unbureaucratic way. There is, of course, a lot more that I would like to say but not right now and not by email. I will write you! Yours …

Contact: Respect for respect

Contact: Respect for respect

Nearly unimaginable how many things can go wrong when working with a foreign culture: you want to shake somebody’s hand and they don’t. Or you want to be left alone in a store and mind your own business while browsing through the store. The sales person are luring upon you already.

“Different cultures, different customs,” what can we learn from the two examples below?

  • In most of parts of Asia a handshake is not what is common or expected when you meet a person. The Japanese and the Chinese prefer a humble bow for respect.
  • For women in the Arabian World it is very impertinent and uncomfortable to be greeted with looking into their eyes, especially from Western men.

Our tip for you: Please familiarize yourself for different customs of the cultures that you are traveling when unfamiliar or when the customs are not similar to yours. In most parts of the world a short, a friendly nod or smile are signs of deep respect. Sudden and uncontrolled movements or loud noise in a foreign territory and environment might trigger and evoke hostility.

Please enter but don’t run us over
We have learned as a good sales representative that a client’s visit will not be like a storm attack on a battle field. And as a guest to storm towards the host with an open hand is certainly not good nor elegant etiquette. With moves like that you put your host into an awkward moment and misuse all the good customs that you should have learned before. Should you do business in a territory foreign to you you better wait until that person wants to shake your hand und if he/she is reaching out to you. You don’t squeeze that hand as if you were holding a hammer or shake the hand like a cocktail shaker.

Welcome – don’t let them wait
As a host you have some non-visible and unwritten duties even if you are stuck with a project or the telephone is running of the hook. It is very rude to let a guest or an employee wait without being honored. “The emotions don’t know hierarchy. But emotions react to being heard and seen as well as disregarded,” comments Guenther Huebern, expert in body language in the German field of fine etiquettes.

Such a disregard can have an impact of the climate and culture in your organization. More so such disregards can lower the motivation and inspiration to buy something by the client. The finest exhibition room and the most elegant show room are missing their point for perfect customer service when the sales representative are not fully present. “Once the sales person omit to pay attention to the entering customer with or without words the customer is checked out and not felt welcomed, Huebern explains further. Don’t let them wait.




“Denglisch” – the ironic description for a mash up of German and English. The inclusion of foreign words into German can often result in uncertainty. Using our own language to express ourselves is not, however, all that difficult:

It’s all about the mix
Some English words are now popular features of German, used on a regular basis. “Dress code” is, for example, common, sounding less formal than the German term “Bekleidungsvermerk”. The English abbreviation “VIP” (very important person) sounds friendlier than the official German term “hochrangige Persönlichkeit”. And “VIP Lounge” is shorter and snappier than the German “Aufenthaltsraum für hochrangige Persönlichkeiten”.
Foreign imports can also put a new spin on meanings. While grandma may still want to relax (German: “entspannen”) when listening to music, her grandchildren will be “chilling”, while “brainstorming” entails far more than the German “Ideenfindung”.

There are, however, also potential pitfalls! German speakers should take care not to delete every single German word from their vocabulary. When something is unclear, the German word is the one that every German speaker will understand and, depending on who you are speaking to or your audience, you can choose to use more or less foreign terms as appropriate.

German language exports around the world
By the way, other languages have also adopted German words. For example:

  • Zeitgeist – common in English and there is even an adjective, “zeitgeisty”.

  • Arbeito – the Japanese word for a second job.

  • Kaffeeklatsching – used in English and derived from the German “Kaffeeklatsch” (English: “to gossip over coffee”).

  • Kaffepaussi – the Finnish term for a break or out of order.

Kindergarten – probably the most famous German language export, with many American and British parents taking their youngest family members to kindergarten.

Distance in intercultural encounters

Mind your distance in intercultural encounters

Picture yourself in the waiting line at the airport, sitting in the narrow seats of an aircraft, when talking to a stranger, or when meeting somebody in the street by coincidence. You want to be mindful with being too close to the other person. You don’t make any friends at all if you are stepping into their personal space. One will ask what is the correct distance to your counterpart or to your neighbor in a meeting. GDIC certainly has a few answers for you to consider.

After a good 50 centimeters or 25 inches you are too close
If you are with family members, friends or good acquaintances you will allow them to come as close as to give you a hug and a kiss on your cheeks. However, if you think of foreigners or business acquaintances you might want to have a bigger distance. You might be too close to them and this might have negative consequences. You might want to check the cultural differences so you are the expert on the right amount of distance. Beside Europe the limits are sometimes smoother. In the US, Latin America and India a hug within business can be appropriate. Check out beforehand in which cultural environment you are.

Who can come a bit closer?
Certainly, medical doctors, hair dressers, massage therapists and other related professions assume that when you shake your hand that you agree with them touching you. Cutting your hair or medical examinations cannot be done without touching you. The same goes social events like dancing. Touching and getting closer is a necessity.

Competing for your space
You have been in situations where you neighbor in the narrow aircraft will take over the armrest that would be yours. Or you had somebody stepping on your feet while waiting in line. You can have two options to handle such situations. Either you go with the non-verbal fighting and set your elbow on the armrest to see who will win or you can openly address the situation. “Excuse me, would you mind moving a little bit so I would also have enough space in this narrow environment? Many thanks.” Main roule also in this context: Stay polite and factual.

Enjoying a relaxed conversation
A traditional hello with a hand shake, a conversation or small talk is being held in your personal zone. Here we would recommend a good distance of 1 meter. Most of your counterpart would appreciate that. There are certainly other situations where you brainstorm or get a bit closer to your counter partners. This is inevitable. We just need to accept the body language and culture of the other person. Good indications of more or less distance might be somebody lowering their voices or leaning back with their eyes on the floor. Be mindful.

Distance in a social setting
Be mindful of talking to strangers. Some of them might be irritated if you are in search of your eye contact. You might scare them away.

If you greet somebody use a distance of 2-3 meters (5-6 feet) and get a bit closer when you start the conversation. Also here check on the body language. If somebody is open they might lean towards you to invite you for a conversation. If you see your boss or a client on the street on your personal time see if she/he is ready to stop to have a little small talk. In a social setting a smile and waving from afar could be enough. You can certainly send signals by those means and don’t get too close. Be mindful and check out their body language.

Also here the best way is to check beforehand in which cultural environment you are. In some parts of Asia there is even more distance requested and in others like Northern America they ask directly how old you are, what your family background is etc.

Donations instead of presents

Donations instead of presents – be not only generous, instead show true greatness

You are invited to a birthday but the host expressly foregoes presents and instead asks for donations for a good cause.

How does one behave correctly in this case? Simply put an anonymous “banknote” into the piggy bank sitting there, or identify the donation as your present with an envelope and a card?

A donation is always an altruistic gesture – even if it has been set out as in our example. Therefore, retain the appropriate modesty and donate anonymously. A donation, which was consciously marked as such by the donor, serves primarily his own profiling.

But – should it be particularly important to you, for whatever reason, that the host finds out the amount of your donation, then drop that later, as if coincidentally, in a conversation. On the same evening or at a later opportunity.

Do You Shine Bright Enough?

Do You Shine Bright Enough?

Leuchten Sie hell genug?There are billions of stars in the sky. In addition, most of them are invisible for us. They simply do not shine as bright as their “colleagues” do.

The dream job got another, although the own professional qualification was tailor-made. The prestige project of the company is assigned to a colleague despite of his/her demonstrably lower competence. Despite tireless labor input, for the second time, nothing has come of the promotion.

The career is often like a starry sky. Some just do not shine bright enough and are outshined by their own colleagues. Besides expertise and motivation, the employees’ appearance and charisma are of fundamental importance for a company. In every customer a collaborator represents its company. The negotiating partners’ behavior is considered an important reference to the underlying corporate philosophy.

Your appearance and charisma are the decisive factors for your external effect – and, as a consequence, essential for your professional success. So be critical with yourself – question your charisma and your professional competence as well. Moreover, work on your charisma. Who masters the business etiquette, is always the “presentable” candidate for the desired position.

In the end, the whole thing is quite simple – the basis of a sympathetic appearance what we generally call good manners. Be friendly, attentive and facing others. If you work internationally, familiarize with the manners of behavior of the respective countries and cultures.

Of course, in the end, what you do counts. Your competence, your results. Just think of the stars – if you do not shine bright enough, you will be overlooked when it is about the next promotion, about the next salary increase, or the award of the next big project.


E-cigarettes at work

E-cigarettes at work – the grey zone for the blue haze

E-cigarettes are becoming more and more popular. That is because people can also create a blue haze with the small vaporizers where normal cigarettes have been banned for a long time.

Whether or not that will be the case on the job cannot be answered across the board. So far, special entries for E-cigarettes in the non-smoker protection laws or other official guidelines are missing.

However, at work, two principles apply:
It requires in any case the approval of the employer – and this does not mean the immediate supervisor, but rather the person who is the head of the company and has the domiciliary right for the building in question.

On the other hand, the specific spatial situation has to be taken into consideration and respectful cooperation is called for. In a densely crowded, open concept office with many non-smokers, it would be better to also not have e-cigarettes.

In the ideal case, people won’t allow themselves to be distracted from concentrated work and will only reach for a cigarette in the official breaks – whether or not they are e-breaks.


First name basis not allways adequate

First name basis not always adequate

If you think of a scene in “Dallas” JR Ewing you are certainly on first name basis with him – no doubt. If you do business in the Unites States of America or in English speaking countries you are on first name basis. However, if you are in Europe conducting business you might want to check on local customs and business strategies. Business rule change from countries to countries; first name basis in not always adequate other cultures. How can we find out about the local customs?

Again, to be careful and mindful is the best advice we can give you here. The best is to ask the question: How can we conduct business in your country? Will we be on first name basis or what is your preference? Please, let us know we want to do it right the first time.

Being proficient with business rules of other cultures is required if you are doing business globally. Ask questions on local customs to set you up for success.

Global DiVision is happy to provide you with more tailored training for successful business strategies.

First impression

Two chances for a first impression

If you want to make a great impression on your counterpart you need to focus more on the personal looks or the outer layer vs. the content. Some of our left brain friends might not like to hear that. But words, according to a study will only have a mere 7 percent of importance in a first meeting. Then how can we make sure we keep a long lasting impression on our business partners?

Going back in history we know from the Neanderthals that our brains are programmed to make decisions at a blink of the eye and within split seconds. If you don’t want to be killed like in the old days you need to make a decision fairly swiftly in order to understand if your counterpart will be a friend or an enemy. Even though, the business world has changed considerably we still emphasize a great deal on a first impression. This has not changed: deal or no deal.

Not only saying HELLO is counting heavily but also the last moments of an encounter of a first meeting. You are rounding up the initial assessment and might correct the image of your first impression. We have gathered the top four items for being assessed by a Human Resources professional or somebody whom you might meet in a store or on the street by coincidence.

  • Number 4 for the cologne
    Cologne or body odor has the least importance for a first impression. This might be relevant in conjunction with the recommended “distance” we will address later on. In the Western world is “less = more”. In some Asian Regions and the Middle East there is a “tidy” consumption.
  • Number 3 for the language
    The sound of the tone can be very accommodating but can also be a deal breaker. Some people have a voice that would be a perfect voice for the radio or TV. The tone, the accent, the volume can make a huge difference. Make sure you don’t talk too fast, speak clearly, don’t use any slang words, don’t talk too loud but still make sure your counterpart understands you. This can be sometimes difficult when you are at a networking event where there is a lot of noise. But still it is not the most important point when meeting for the first time.
  • Number 2 for the perfect outfit
    The outfit – might it be great quality or a designer outfit, great colors or very form fitting might not get you to the top of the list for first impression – but
  • Number 1 for body language
    Facial expression and gestures, but also your posture, your way of walking, moving and keeping an adequate distance are the most important criteria for a first impression. To summarize: your body language is the most important to impress.

Some more insights for you: Should an employee make two mistakes in the summer months this might not result in a bad performance review. However, if they make the same mistakes in the months of January or December then it might influence the performance review. While getting to know somebody make sure you focus on the first and the last impression. Follow these examples:

  • Keep eye contact
    Signal your interest – but don’t stare at your counterpart at all times. Use your facial expression to show interest in the message. You can train and rehearse that in front of the mirror.
  • Be authentic
    Smile when there is something funny or frown when you hear something that seems unbelievable. Be natural and be authentic, be yourself and let those facial expression come naturally. These gestures cannot be trained. If you train for them it might come across as staged.
  • Sit up straight
    Standing, walking and sitting up straight with a good posture makes you look very confident with great self-esteem. Slouching in a chair makes you come across very impolite and arrogant. This is the same for men and women.
  • Keep a distance
    Everybody needs distance – especially a new person who you meet. One meter of distance is an adequate measurement for keeping a good distance. Less than 50 centimeters is not acceptable for good business etiquettes.
  • Read more
  • Show appreciation
    Don’t run in front of the person whom you just have met; it is not a competition let them go ahead and lead the way. To hold the door open or offer the salt and pepper shakers in a restaurant to this person shows a lot of appreciation and estimation without being submissive. And more important insights, if you are not sure how to dance on the international floor please contact GDIC for their communication trainings. GDIC will prepare you effectively for many different communication situations.
  • Feel free to browse for more information on our website
Flowers - do it right!

Give flowers – but do it right

Flowers can be the perfect gift, especially if you are invited to a private party. If it is a business event, then it is also a good idea to bring flowers to the office.

When choosing a bouquet, the best thing is to think about what the recipient would enjoy the most. That doesn’t necessarily have to be what you like the most. Ask yourself what color suits the person and her environment the most.

To avoid putting your foot in it, we have compiled the most important tips related to giving flowers for you.

Please, always flowers without the wrapping
Before giving the bouquet, it should be removed from the paper. Clear film can generally stay, but it is now out, because environmental awareness is increasing more and more. An exception is the paper sleeves: They don’t cover up the flowers, and decoratively complete the overall look of the bouquet.

Giving flowers made easy!
If you are invited as a couple by another couple, then the following is still the rule: The man gives the flowers to the hostess. However, other alternatives are still possible these days. Try it out. However, you should generally be sure that you have the right gift. If someone doesn’t think much of flowers, then a book, CD or an exquisite bottle is often a better present.

Send flowers in advance or afterwards?
If it is a big event, then the hosts often have their hands full. Save them the stress when you arrive. It is more relaxed and stylish to send the bouquet in advance.
If you would like to say thank you afterwards, you can also send a flower bouquet afterwards. This is particularly good for events for which a gift is not common, such as openings, ceremonial acts, receptions or cocktail parties.

Label the flowers correctly
A business card in the bouquet makes it possible for the host to maintain an overview of the gifts. However, without an accompanying message, it has a somewhat impersonal effect. Therefore write a personal greeting on your card and include it with the flowers.

White is chic – but not always for flowers!
White bouquets are very modern. But, be careful! Older people in particular still feel that white lilies, callas, hydrangeas, asters and chrysanthemums are used more for bereavements. Therefore choose a colorful bouquet if you want to avoid these associations.

Pay attention to the scent
Strongly scented flowers are not suitable for a hospital or open plan offices. Flowers that only have a discrete scent are a better alternative, because they won’t bother anyone.

The red misunderstanding
Please only give red roses if you want to express your love or being in love. Avoid embarrassing misunderstandings by foregoing red roses in mixed bouquets as well.


Good Cards

Good Cards

If calling cards in Western countries were made of plastic, we could at least use them as ice scrapers in winter. Although our Chinese and Japanese business partners also use Outlook, iPhones and Blackberries to find each other, that small piece of pasteboard, on average measuring 55 by 85 millimeters, is, however, of far more significance to them.

  • Always use both hands to present the calling card and also state your name when doing so.
  • Read the calling card you receive from your opposite number immediately. It is not impolite to make the individual wait for a short moment while doing so – it would, however, be impolite not to read it at all.
  • On no account should you make notes on the card itself – this is considered disrespectful.
  • Do not put the calling card away immediately but instead wait a while before doing so.
  • In China, Japan and other countries, simply “deep-sixing” a calling card in your pants or jacket pocket is considered disrespectful. Find a safe place to keep it that expresses your esteem for your opposite number.
Gift: always the right hostess gift

Gift: always the right hostess gift

Client gifts:
Knowledge is power, and that also applies to the correct gift. Is the host a technology freak? Does the hostess have a green thumb? A computer magazine or a gardening publication does not cost the world and can be picked up quickly.

Should I arrive at a private invitation with empty hands?
No way! Your host has invested time, money and ideas in order to prepare a couple of nice hours for you. Show your appreciation; it’s the gesture that counts, not the value.

No ideas? No problem!
The context is decisive, not the value, the exclusivity or the like. The design fan is pleased with an unusual designer lamp – made of paper. The host of a barbecue party receives a bag of charcoal, “so that the heat is always on”.

And, what if you don’t know the host well?
Then, keep your eyes and ears open. Is the new colleague hosting? Didn’t she say something in the cafeteria yesterday about her new kitchen? A new cookbook – right on!

Even more gift ideas:
Useful and consumable gifts are always good. Bring a candle lantern and a bar of classical Berger chocolate filled with pink champagne to a garden party. Pretty paper serviettes according to the season combined with a creation of sea salt, or basil in a pot with classic olive oil or a special balsamic vinegar.

Be careful! Gift slip-ups.
Too personal is also not good. Intimate gifts like perfume, lingerie or soap are more problematic. Also, you should be careful if you pass on unwanted gifts. Perhaps your network is larger than you think…

The best for last; how much should a gift cost?
Basically, it’s the gesture that counts. 10 to 20 euro; a nice gesture shouldn’t cost more. A warning about expensive gifts; it puts the host under pressure and has exactly the opposite effect of what you intended.

Gift: The Right Way to Refuse a Gift

The Right Way to Refuse a Gift.

Germans like to say that small gifts maintain friendships – and annual turnover. Deciding when a gift is inappropriate is a matter for either corporate compliance rules or, if none are in place, the employee him- or herself.

Refusing a gift can result in the giver also feeling rejected. Returning a gift that includes thanks for a good business year and expresses the hope that the relationship will continue without a comment sends a clear message.

You may, of course, refuse a gift if you feel that it is inappropriate or are worried that it could lead to suspicion of taking personal advantage. On no account, however, should you do so without providing a corresponding explanation. Clarify your reasons for rejecting the gift and refer either to your company’s rules in this regard or put the blame on yourself – for example that you don’t feel comfortable accepting a gift of this value.

An elegant solution that can satisfy all concerned can be donating it to the company tombola or auction. Many companies collect all the gifts they receive and use them to offer a tombola at the Christmas party that all the employees can participate in. The givers are informed about this decision and, of course, are also sent a letter of thanks.

Alternatively, particularly valuable gifts can be auctioned off, with the proceeds donated to charity. In this case, the sender should also be included, possibly even mentioned at the auction, and sent a letter of thanks.

This enables you to clearly express your appreciation of the “donor” while simultaneously avoiding any accusations of taking personal advantage.




In Denmark, Germany, or Australia it is considered “politically correct” to cycle to company headquarters each morning. A Chinese CEO who leaves his luxury automobile in the garage will, in contrast, most probably lose his employees’ respect.

In other words, there are also intercultural differences in terms of status symbols – and we should observe those that apply in whatever cultural circles we happen to find ourselves in. What in egalitarian cultures is viewed as “motivational communication between equal partners” can be perceived as a lack of respect in hierarchical cultures.

The following basic principles apply in an egalitarian culture:

  • It is permissible to openly contradict your boss in front of others as long as you display a little tact when doing so.
  • Superiors value subordinates using their own initiative and modern managers definitely want their employees to make independent decisions in standard situations.
  • Customers or suppliers do not necessarily expect business meetings to be attended by opposite numbers who have equal status in the hierarchy.
  • In daily operations it is standard practice for varying levels of the hierarchy to communicate directly with one another – also by telephone or by email.
  • It is not customary to have specific seating arrangements or orders of speaking at meetings with customers or partners.

The rules in a hierarchical culture are totally different:

  • The superior’s opinion is what counts, particularly in public, and employees behave deferentially.
  • As a matter of principle, employees obtain their superiors’ permission and do not take action on their own authority.
  • Should executive managers announce that they intend to be present at a meeting, then the supplier or customer will also delegate their superior to attend. Should your boss cancel, then it is likely that your opposite number will also send the “junior” team to the meeting.
  • Expect the hierarchy to be strictly adhered to at all times. Employees only communicate directly with those who have equal status.
  • In addition to this, it is extremely probable that there are very specific seating arrangements and orders of speaking. The participants are seated according to their seniority and the order of speaking also corresponds to this.


HandicapMany able-bodied people often find it difficult to interact normally with individuals who have mental or physical disabilities. Both in their professional and their private lives. The principle is, however, actually pretty simple and universal. Treat everyone the same! If you see a person who clearly needs helps, then speak to them. Whether they need assistance because they are in a wheelchair and cannot overcome an obstacle or because they are lost is irrelevant.

People who view individuals with disabilities as “in need of help” purely because of their handicap, treating them with over-exaggerated concern, care and attention, are discriminating against them just as much as those who believe that such individuals lack certain abilities and talents because, for example, they are in a wheelchair.

So look at the person. The man, the woman, the customer, the employee – not the person with the disability. Offer help if it is clearly needed but never give it unasked. There is no clearer way of telling someone that you have no confidence in them!

How to Write an Email

CAPITAL LETTERS and !!!!!!! – Or How to Write an Email

How to Write an Email

Whole sentences written in capitals, followed by an arbitrary number of exclamation marks. Sometimes emails can look as if the author fell asleep with their head on the keyboard.

Chats, emails, and text messages have significantly changed the face of written communications. Where once neat, expressive handwriting in a personal letter impressed the reader, today we find ourselves confronted with emojis that stick their tongues out; shouty sentences written in capitals; mysterious abbreviations; and high-ranking individuals using language that was formerly reserved for cartoon characters. Sooo sad, very, very sad!!!!!!!

“The difficulty with communicating via emails is the total lack of non-verbal signals such as tone of voice or facial expressions. Some people respond to this by using the above-mentioned items in an attempt to make their message clearer,” explains Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel (PhD.). We should, however, be careful not to overuse such written signals.

Capital letters are the next step up from an exclamation mark, both of which should be used sparingly. An exclamation is an oral statement that we make when afraid, needing help, or angry. Someone who writes in capitals and finishes off with a few exclamation marks clearly needs a lot of help. IN ADDITION TO THIS, WHOLE SENTENCES WRITTEN IN CAPITALS ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO READ. See what we mean?

So, before you use the next exclamation mark, stop to consider whether you would also shout out loud what you have written to the recipient if you were talking face-to-face. No? Then don’t do it in an email either.


Jobs: Be well prepared for your interview

Be well prepared for your interview


  • Go to bed early so you are well rested.
  • Make sure you do not stress to go to the interview: leave your house early, check for traffic conditions and add extra time for delays.
  • Be on time. (Arrive 10-15minutes early at the interview).
  • Plan enough time for the interview (1-2 hours).
  • Make sure your outfit is adequate. You want to accommodate the culture of the organization: the more conservative the organization the more conservatively you should be dressed.
  • You should feel comfortable in your outfit. For women, as an example, try on your outfits before your interview. You don’t want to wear your skirts and don’t feel comfortable.
  • Don’t wear too much makeup nor too much jewelry. You want to impress with your knowledge and your personality.

Stress-relieving for a good presentation at the interview

  • Wait till the interviewer reaches out the hand to you to say hello. Have a firm handshake but not too hard and not too weak. Try it out with your friends.
  • Each time when you are introduced to somebody say your first and last name.
  • Only take a seat once you get invited. If they don’t offer ask where you should sit.
  • If they offer you a beverage take water or a juice even though you are not thirsty at the moment. Your mouth might get dry.
  • Let your interviewer start the conversation, let them finish their sentence before answering.
  • Think before you speak. You can take a few seconds before you answer.
  • Be rational, don’t get emotional. Use language wisely. Avoid any slangs or street language, avoid swearing or language that might be too strong. Be careful with words which meanings you are not familiar with.
  • Be in eye-contact when you speak to your interviewer. If there are more than one person in the conversation look at each one of them.
  • Pay attention to your body language. If you cross your arms you project not being open. A notebook, cups, plates on the table might be obstacles for a clear communication.
  • Sit comfortably don’t open up your legs too much nor should you have your feet crossed. You better have both of your feet on the floor. Sit securely on the chair, don’t bounce and don’t sit on the edge of the chair. You don’t want to fall!
  • Don’t get nervous with provocative questions. Tricky questions might be a test on how dependable you are in stressful situations. Those questions should not be taken personal it is to test uncomfortable situations and how you react.
  • Take notes and come prepared with good questions.

Extra Tips for you: be ready for small talk

  • Read the newspapers, check what is going on in the world. They might ask you something that is current and you want to make sure you have something interesting to say.
  • If you add you like to read and watching movies on your resume you better know the title of the latest bestseller as well as the latest movie. You want to make sure you have a convincing and good story to tell.


Leadership (I)

Leadership (I): “Give it to me”

Intervention – or letting it go (laissez-faire)? Especially young executives feel the conflict when they are under dire time pressure together with high expectations from their supervisors. Any disturbances in current projects are gaining influence on their own decision making process. Can or should we resist the temptation to pull back work in such situations?

Maybe executives might solve some problems faster than their employees. But with everything they have stacked and lined up on their own desk, their motivation is sinking and independence is lacking. Be careful, this is what trainers of GDIC are warning you in each of their leadership seminars: “Managers are losing track of the bigger picture when they have to focus on each minor detail,” says Monika V. Kronbügel , CEO of Global DiVision.” So this is not the solution to incapacitate the employee and to risk losing of control of the projects. ”

The ability to distribute tasks with ease are tips and tricks that you will get acquainted with in the standard repertoire training for senior executives. To demand too little from somebody while they are getting bored is as dangerous as to challenge somebody with too much. Both can hurt their personal growth and their self-esteem. The golden rule is to demand, to encourage and to promote work when each team member provides their best performance but don’t overexert them. Then, how do you obtain adequate basis for such decision making?

1 Assess the situation:

  • Is there a threat to the company, because deadlines for contractual or legal penalties cannot be met? Clients can be upset.
  • Is there an urgent task where previous solutions and attempts have failed?
  • Can failures be tolerated? Is there any buffer zone or time during the process to correct the mistakes?

2 Asses the ability of the employees:

  • Can the employee cope alone with this task, or was there a misjudgment when distributing the task initially?
  • What is needed to support the employee? Time commitment, personal input or maybe some concrete help. The employee might work on their personal limits.

Anyway, “Give it to me” or “This is the way we do it – it has been done like that” these are not real solutions. You better ask question to find out:

  • “Which solution do you think is best in that case?”
  • “What do you need to solve this problem?”
  • “How can I assist you?”

If you address the situations with a cool composure it does not mean that you call employees to think and reflect. You might solely provide them with guidelines and directions. You will not lead the process like being the main driver.

When you definitely should intervene immediately:

Of course, there are situations that do not allow any leeway. You might have to react immediately. Such examples might be bullying, exclusion, exceeding personal limits or sexual harassment. All of those require the unequivocal intervention of the boss. Such potential risk of reoccurrences need to be cut immediately.

Leadership (II)

Leadership (II): “Well done?”

If the boss suddenly praises his staff, it is often that case that it is taken completely the wrong way. The reason for this is mistrust that has developed over time: “When supervisors use appreciative words as a tactic, then it quickly backfires,” warns Monika V. Kronbügel, CEO of Global DiVision.

There’s no point in that:

  • “The team’s work is outstanding. I don’t want to exclude anyone,” is an announcement that triggers astonishment at best. The employees become suspicious that their boss wants to test the course content of the last motivation seminar and the team will soon be lambasted again.
  • “Oh, Ms Meyer, you always make such good coffee,” is really bad if the same employee’s carefully prepared presentation is forgotten. If only the trivial occasions are registered, Ms Meyer may soon be making coffee for a different boss.
  • Too much praise for your favourite employees can also be counterproductive if it is expressed at every possible opportunity in front of the whole team. This makes the rest of the team jealous and isolates the persons in question.

This is even worse.

  • Praising one employee in order to point out to another that he is good for nothing can completely poison the atmosphere in the company.

If you see yourself in these examples, you still shouldn’t stop praising. The sincerity is important: a big compliment for something big and a small compliment for something small – and not always in front of the whole team. On the other hand, criticism should never be expressed across the board, rather relevant to the case and in private.

How to give praise correctly:

  • Do it right away
    Don’t wait a few days, rather speak out immediately and clearly regarding what the employee did well in your eyes.
  • Maintain eye contact
    When giving praise, you should look your counterpart in the eye. Then, give your counterpart a short breather to “digest” and then close with a short but meaningful handshake.
  • Say it in private
    Giving praise in a large group is less effective than in a personal conversation. But please avoid any exaggeration in the process.
  • Use precise wording
    Describe what you liked in detail. “The presentation was good,” is too weak. “It was great how you confidently handled the customer’s objections. It was your sureness about the subject that convinced him,” is better and is motivating for the future.
Ladys first?

Steps with a view

Do you find it a bit impertinent if a man walks up the stairs behind a woman? Then, you’re wrong and doing men an injustice. You see, they don’t just want to have an avid glimpse of long legs beneath skirts that may be short. On the contrary, it’s out of concern for the wellbeing of the ladies that they gladly stay back and further down.

It was once different. Back in the first half of the 19th century, the gentleman had to kindly go first in order to keep straps or calves from impertinent glimpses. In that way, intimacy was protected, but not her wellbeing. If a lady tripped, she fell down the stairs because there was no helping gentleman’s hand ready to catch her.

However, because in those days bruises and plaster casts were not really in fashion, the men were soon assigned to their current regular place that remains today. They should go down the stairs first and up the stairs behind the woman so that they continuously have everything in view. Their task is not to be able to get a perusing glimpse of anatomy, but rather to be permanently on guard to lend a helping hand when needed (meaning a fall). After Mary Quant raised the hem lines very high in 1959, the rules of conduct had to be re-written anyway.

How is it on the job?

Although a man is allowed to have a posterior in front of his eyes when going up the stairs privately as an exception, he should stay at eye level with female colleagues when on the job. In plain English, this means that she and he walk side by side, except if it gets too narrow. Then, even the male guest enjoys the protection of the experienced female host on the way up. On the other hand, if he insists on taking the position of a gentleman, the female business partner, female customer or female colleague may gladly take the first step (on the stairs).

Letter to international customers

Hi there…

When you write your first letter, you can, of course, put your foot in your mouth regarding how to greet someone correctly or, you can gather information before writing a letter to international customers.

First of all, you should know: Most of the rules of correspondence that we learned at school many years ago, are now hopelessly obsolete.

  • Modern business titles are no longer Miss or Mrs. When addressing a lady, simply put Ms in front of her name, no matter whether the lady is single or married. It continues to be pronounced as “miss” although with more of a shorter “s” at the end.
  • Gentlemen continue to be happy with Mr.
  • Although men and women are addressed as Mr and Ms, at the same time married couples are correctly addressed with the old Mr and Mrs.
  • A letter written to two male business partners is written as Messrs Phillip Marlow and Richard Blaine.
  • When addressing professionals, put the title before the name and the professional specialty after the name, for example Dr Phillip Marlow MD (for medical doctor) or Professor Dr Inga Lund PhD (doctor of philosophy).
  • The title replaces the addition of Ms/Mr in the address by being added after the name and with the separation of a comma, e.g.: Inga Lund, PhD. Although this is different from Germany, it is, however quite normal in the Anglo Saxon region to leave out the title of doctor or professor unless the contact person specifically minds. To know if it is acceptable, you can be relatively sure by checking whether or not it is also missing from the visiting card.

And then, of course, there is the United States:

  • With formal letters, a punctuation mark follows the form of address and greeting that is not used in the rest of the world, i.e. a colon after the form of address and a comma after the greeting.

By the way, these are the correct forms of address:

  • Generally, Dear Sir or Madam, or alternatively Dear Sirs (Madam is not pluralized),
  • Ladies and Gentlemen (for executive boards or supervisory boards in the USA),
  • Dear Mr Marlow, or alternatively Dear Dr Marlow and
  • Dear Mr and Mrs Marlow for married recipients or
  • Dear Mr Marlow and Ms Croft for contact persons who are not married to each other.

And another couple of tips:

  • Please write Madam without an “e” because Madame with “e” means a prostitute.
  • You make is easier on the recipient of the letter if you show how you would like to be addressed yourself. To do this, type the specific form of address after your name in brackets in the signature block:
    – Inga Lund (Mrs) and
    – Phillip Marlow (Mr)

We especially recommend this solution if your first name does not clearly indicate your gender to international business partners (Kim, Kai, Simone, Andrea).

Letter writing

Me and the Donkey

Germans have a saying that translates roughly as “Only a jackass mentions himself first” – and it is one that many people remember from their time at school. Back then, starting a letter with the word “I” was an absolute no-go.

Today, just like many other things, it’s not something that is taken so seriously. Particularly if the outcome of not using the “I opening” is a confused, strange sentence structure.

The current rule is “Authenticity, not false humility”. Your written style should resemble how you talk. This does not, however, mean that the “I opening” is the new go-to option in correspondence. When writing to strangers or individuals with whom you have an intentionally more reserved relationship, you should still not use this opening. In such cases, it is better to use a first sentence that includes “you” or “thank you”.

To sum up – stay true to yourself. Do not use phrases that you would not use if talking and dispense with complicated, convoluted sentence structures.

Little Black Dress

The “Little Black Dress” – A Big Issue

Originally surrounded by scandal, the “little black dress” is often women’s first choice when the prescribed male dress code is “dark suit”.

When Coco Chanel, considered to be the inventor of the “little black dress”, decreed that women, who up until then had been opulently clothed, should ditch their corsets and anything else that was superfluous the “little black dress” and its knee-skimming hemline was as revolutionary as it was scandalous.

Today it is the global go-to garment for major and minor events. One reason is its versatility. It should be understated, black, short, and flatter the figure. These are, however, the only rules. Long or short sleeves; a stand-up collar; a turtle neck; or a low-cut neckline. With a huge range of fabrics on offer, a perfect “little black dress” exists for every occasion and for every woman.

Labels versus Individuality?

Labels versus Individuality?

Etiketten versus IndividualitätAre being true to yourself and polite mutually exclusive? What should you do if the rules go against your grain? As is always the case, rules of etiquette are merely guidelines and not “written in stone”. Even the German doyen of etiquette, Baron Knigge, was actually more interested in making human interaction easier; something that can only happen if everyone feels comfortable.

We have sub-divided the fundamental differences into 4 “personalities”, illustrated by how they typically greet others. You may recognize yourself – or are you a combination?

  1. The Dynamic Personality
    They are pragmatic – direct, quick, do not think about things too deeply. If they want to walk through the door, then they will. Without stopping to consider if anyone else should go first. Is there a dress code? Fine – that means they won’t have to worry about what to wear.
    Typical greeting: A short “Hi” or a pithy “Sup”. They are in danger of overlooking others and should, at minimum, give a brief nod of the head.
  2. The Relaxed Personality
    Laid-back, lovable, fun. Who cares about the dress code? Their openness allows them to create a relaxed atmosphere and they are popular networkers. They are not afraid to make a blunder – their charm will always save the day. But a word of caution – too much youthful nonchalance can quickly result in your not being taken seriously.
    Typical greeting: Yes – you can also greet the mayor with a friendly “Hello” – but please don’t shout it across the room! Failure to remember this can result in a fast transformation from carefree soul to clumsy oaf.
  3. The Natural Personality
    Their strengths are authenticity and empathy. They wear what feels like fancy dress just because the dress code demands it. This personality places great value on cooperative relationships. One of their assets is being able to understand other people’s points of view. Their moral aspirations can, however, quickly, destroy the cozy atmosphere.
    Typical greeting: They prefer a “Good day” or a similar regional greeting. Using the other person’s name serves to additionally emphasize their attentive nature.
  4. The Traditional Personality
    The rational being. Clear rules, age, and hierarchy. They view going against the dress code not as an expression of personality but as plain bad manners. Their strength is their factual manner. They don’t say a lot, but when they do, they have something worth hearing.
    Typical greeting: They expect younger adults and children to greet them first. This can, however, sometimes mean that they forget that not everyone shares their view of the world. A friendly smile will encourage the other person to react.

If you have recognized yourself among these personalities, then this is an indication that you are already aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If, in addition to this, you stick to three basic rules, then you should be able to handle any situation:

  1. Be conscious of conventions. Rules provide orientation. What is ok? What will make my opposite number uncomfortable? To gauge the reactions of others correctly you must know the rules. If you are aware of the rules, then you will still be able to modify your behavior where appropriate.
  2. Know yourself. You may already have found yourself in the above-mentioned personalities. If you recognize your own stumbling blocks, then you can avoid them without too many problems – while staying true to yourself.
  3. Comment on any rule you break. If there is a good reason for breaking a rule, then everyone will be able to understand it. So be sure to comment on why you are the first to take off your jacket – because it’s very hot – or to start eating – because your food will get cold otherwise. It is possible that not everyone will agree with your actions, but at least they will know the reasons for them and not simply view them as a thoughtless blunder.




There is a saying among German workers that goes something like “After really tight comes really loose”. In other words, sometimes when you want to do something extra-right it turns out extra-wrong. And that can sometimes be very funny – for example when it comes to pronouncing the names of certain foods and drinks.

We Germans have a hard time not pointing out other people’s mistakes to them. Not, as our European neighbors like to claim, because we feel the need to prove that we can do things better. No, because we want to help others to do things better – put another way, because we are suffering from a kind of ‘helper syndrome’. Aren’t we? The list of possible mispronunciations is long.

Latte Mah-chi-ah-toh and Latte Mo-key-atto
Latte macchiato is not pronounced the same way as cappuccino. The difference lies in the “h” between the “c” and the “i”, that turns the “chee” of cappuccino into a hard “k” sound.
The correct pronunciation is: Lattay mah-key-ah-toh

Ga-nachee and Nok-ees
Gnocchi – The correct pronunciation of the “ch” before the “i” has already been discussed above. In Italian when put together “g” and “n” combine to produce a sound approximately like “nyoh”. By the way, gnocchi is already the plural and no-one serves the small dumplings singly, which would actually be a gnocco. So “nok-ees” is doubly wrong.
The correct pronunciation is: Nyoh-kee

Prosecco – a classic, whose deliberate mispronunciation at every party is considered good manners. In Italian a “c” before an “o” is pronounced as a “k”. If you want to sound uber-Italian, then say the word with a rolling “r” and a soft “s”.
The correct pronunciation is: Pro-ssekko

Espresso – another classic, as are also the variations “two expressis” and “two expressos”. Let’s get rid of that “x” and replace it with an “s” – that sounds better already. You could also order “un caffè” and would still get an espresso. Because the former is the more common term used in authentic Italian cafes.
The correct pronunciation is: Es-pres-so

Shee-a-batta or Chee-a-batta
Ciabatta – Sadly, Italian also has exceptions to the rule. The “ci” at the beginning of this word is pronounced like the one in “ciao” – so not “chah-oh” but instead “chow”.
The correct pronunciation is: Chah-bah-tah

Tagliatelle is great pasta. Be sure to avoid any hard consonants when talking about it. In combination with an “l” an Italian “g” is pronounced very softly. In fact, it actually disappears completely, as “g” and “l” combine to make a “ly-ah” sound.
The correct pronunciation is: Tah-lyah-tellee


The name says it all

The name says it all.

Business Etiquette Manual

Although one’s own name is the declared favorite word, 85 percent of conversation partners on the telephone have to put up with incorrect pronunciation, accentuation or even falsification. What’s the problem, if according to a study of the University of Kassel, only a scant 15 percent are pronounced correctly?

“Do it well” comes at the beginning of every conversation – not at the end. Therefore, anyone who doesn’t correctly understand Kowalski or Gosling should immediately ask and clarify whether Meier is perhaps written as Mayer with “ay”. Otherwise, you are at risk of putting your foot in your mouth – and it could happen like this:

  • “Who was I just talking to”,
    provokes the answer: “I don’t know. At the moment you’re talking with me.”
  • “I didn’t understand your name”,
    can trigger annoyance. Because, even if slurred speech contributes a large part to mispronunciation on the telephone in those 85 percent, it is not nice for anyone to “not be understood”.
  • Nobody wants to hear
    “You’ll have to say your name again” or likes to be told what he has to do.
  • And “What was your name?”,
    incites jokers to reply with: “My name is still …” or “my name used to be Smith, but when I got married, I took my wife’s name.”

Therefore, respond professionally right from the first telephone contact, then you’ll save yourself a lot…


Personal greetings

Many Greetings

Do you want to send personal holiday greetings to business partners or good friends? Then we recommend a rarity that has almost become obsolete in the era of digital communications:

A handwritten letter used to be the standard means of maintaining contact across large distances. Today, particularly in the business environment, it is already something special if the envelope deviates from the norm; the address is not printed; and the writer has chosen an attractive stamp.

Personalized Mass Mailing as an Alternative

< The more intensive and close your relationship with the recipient is, the more attractive a personal letter will be, also in a business environment. There should, of course, be enough time to reach for high quality stationery and a fountain pen to write your inner circle. In the case of all other recipients you will probably fall back on a personalized mass mailing as the “second best alternative”. Vary the texts you send to friends, acquaintances, family members, customers, business partners, employees, and co-workers as much as possible, because this is simpler than drafting one standard text to fit all groups.

The Standard with an Individual Addition

“I like to think back to our last meeting in November and the ideas we discussed and should follow up on in the New Year,” or “The way you organized our partners meeting in November was truly excellent. Thank you again for your hard work.” You can supplement your standard letter with personal comments of this kind to show the recipient that you were thinking specifically of him or her when you sent it. Such messages make an enduring impression even though they are relatively short and require little time.

Polite & Discreet

Polite & Discreet

Höflich & diskretWe all know the situation – someone gets really angry; starts shouting; and loses control. Giving the impression that they are ridiculous and helpless rather than self-possessed. You should therefore remember to stay calm and be polite but firm. Documented criticism, made quietly but clearly, will always be streets ahead of a tantrum.

What is, however, even more important is that private criticism should remain private. It is not something that should be shared with the rest of the world. Always be sure to conduct such conversations one on one. This will ensure that the other person will not be embarrassed but instead receive valuable feedback on how they could do things better in future. This applies to criticism from both the bottom up as well as from the top down. Your boss should also be self-assured enough to be able to deal with having possible errors pointed out to him or her. If this is not the case, then why not point this out – in private?


Respectfully yours

Do you have any questions?

Some of us probably signed the application for their first job with “I remain respectfully yours”, and then very quickly stopped doing it, because such empty phrases became obsolete and came across to the recipient as implausible. However, some outdated wording is still kept, even though obviously nobody thinks about the meaning.

“I am available to you at any time for questions”, can be read in the footers of many offers that potential customers flip through at the table; and that is plain and simply a false message.

  • “at any time” certainly wouldn’t include your holiday time or the night-time hours.
  • “am available” can mean money, tools or other objects, but probably not yourself like a bondsman.
  • The wording is so old fashioned that it no longer registers with the recipient.

What should be done in the third millennium to indicate a willingness to serve and interest? Here are a couple of contemporary alternatives:

  • If you still have questions or requests, feel free to contact me.
  • Please call me if you require further information.
  • Our customer service can be reached for any open questions from ….. to …..
  • I will get back to you in the upcoming week. Prior to that, you can reach me at telephone number.
Restaurant etiquette

Restaurant etiquette

No other area is as strongly associated with good manners as eating. So how well we behave at table during business meals has a huge impact on how we are perceived and is viewed as an indication of social status and a good upbringing. This, however, also means that etiquette can frequently become a stumbling block – particularly for potential business partners.

Is the etiquette defined by 18th century German writer Baron von Knigge still relevant for today’s business meals?

1. The gentleman takes care of the lady?

Old rule:
In former times, the man was responsible for the woman’s wellbeing.

New recommendation:
Women and men have equal shares in ensuring that everyone feels at ease. The key factor is whether they are the guest or host. Today women also take care of their guests, for example when hosting a meal. They help guests take off their coats; offer them seats; and make recommendations when ordering. In our emancipated era there is room for both women and men, as well as children, on the “pedestal of honor”. Depending on the private or business nature of the situation, men can decide whether and which gallant gestures are appropriate. When doing so they should respect the woman’s wishes.

2. When being guided to the table by a waiter, does the host go last?

Old rule:
The waiter and host form a front and rear escort on the way to the table, with the guest in a protective position between them. This is, however, only viable if there are a small number of guests. If the host is standing behind their guests, he/she cannot manage what is happening; offer seats; or help guests to sit down.

New recommendation:
The host decides intuitively whether or not to go in front. If there is no waiter to guide the group to the table he/she (continues) to lead the way and the guests follow.

3. Can we put our hands on the table?

Old rule:
In the old days it was considered polite to leave your hands on the table for the entire duration of the meal. This signaled that our intentions were good. International conventions, however, differ. In many countries hands should be placed on laps when not being using; in Arab countries the left hand is even considered unclean. People who prefer to keep their hands under the table are not impairing the wellbeing of their fellow diners. There is therefore no reason why this rule should not be relaxed.

New recommendation:
It is not a social blunder to put your hands on your lap between courses.

Enjoy your meal!


Service is Making the Difference

Service is Making the Difference

“Service Desert” – NO: a travel agency in Northern Germany, in Ahrensburg, can show the rest of the country how to generate satisfied customers. With their great customer service their clients are their best public relation or marketing tool – and that – totally free of charge.

“There they have found the absolutely right person,” says Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel, CEO of Global Division, who is well known that she pays a very close eye on every minute detail in the sale or consulting world. “That is my job after all.” While booking her most recent trip and more so there after she experienced exactly what they train to their clients in each customer service measure: There was nothing at all to complain or add about that reservation and service experience:

The reservation agent at the TUI Travel Center started and created a frequent flyer profile so that the CEO could take all her comprehensive documentation to the business trip to Athens namely at no cost. A few days later, it got even better when the CEO called for help from the airport in Athens. The agent could showcase her expertise fully. With total ease she found a great alternative to the missed plane and a connection flight to Istanbul. This was not even planned prior to the trip. “She had found the cheapest way, booked a hotel at Istanbul Airport, reserved a shuttle and took care of all of it in record times. Furthermore, she made sure I could travel with only an identity card in and out of those countries where normally a passport is requested.”

For sure: part of this great commitment and passion is certainly inherited, but “the rest you can learn,” says Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel. Her suggestion: “We are happy to develop an effective customer service program that is suitable to your business objectives. Your customers should only rave and dream like I did with such great service when traveling.”

Sticking your foot in it

Sticking your foot in it.

When are you guaranteed to turn beet red? Exactly! It’s enough when you naively stick your foot in it at the wrong point in time and in front of the wrong person. We’ll give you some tips on how to avoid the worst traps.

Tip number 1: Think before you speak

Here are two examples that show that a closed mouth catches no flies:

  • The lady in front of you has very pronounced feminine curves. Perhaps she has recently quit smoking, or maybe she gained weight because she just had to sample the entire menu in the new popular restaurant. Asking how far along she is, will definitely lose you points!
  • The new business partner sauntered into a business dinner with a very young lady on his arm: Do not congratulate him on his pretty daughter. She might be his current wife.

Tip number 2: Don’t just blabber away

Theodor Heuss, who was the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1959, was famous for his foreign language slip-ups. The following examples show the way to emulate him today.

  • “Can I become a beef steak, please?” the German guest asked a waiter in London. “I hope not, sir”, he answered, without any concern, because “become” in English has nothing to do with the German word “bekommen” (to get). Of course, the guest didn´t wanted to be cooked in the frying pan himself.
  • The question asked by an Italian visitor to a restaurant in Cambridge appeared just as idiotic – he wanted to know where he could find the bathroom but pronounced it as “bedroom”.

As an exception, should you perhaps point at what you’d like to have, instead of sticking your foot into it with a feeble attempt at worldliness?

Tip number 3: Humor is being able to laugh at yourself

Have you ever thought about the reason that Scotland desperately wants to be free of the British Crown?

  • Prince Phillip, for example may have provided one of the reasons. Specifically, he asked a Scottish driving instructor, “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

Inappropriate jokes don’t spread as fast as the annoyance at those who tell them. In order not to insult people, you should only tell jokes about yourself and not about others!


Tablet PC's in a restaurant

Tablet Trends

Once upon a time diners in restaurants would give you very disapproving looks for making a call on your cellphone while eating. Today, menus have been replaced by tablet PCs, which take the orders for waiters. So, does this mean that the ban on electronic devices at the dining table has now been officially lifted?

You are travelling privately

  • Not everyone enjoys eating alone in a restaurant. Where should you look when couples or groups are sitting at the other tables? Then, the silent operation of a tablet is definitely comparable to reading a book and absolutely OK between courses. The prerequisite is that you don’t mess up the gastronomical table arrangement. Cutlery and glasses should remain where they were when the table was laid.
  • Also, when a group is travelling, mobile computers don’t have to be a complete taboo. The opposite is true. They can even enrich a conversation when you use them to answer open questions, plan a theatre visit together, lay out the excursions for the next day or research the author of a recommended book.

But, please think about it: To withdraw from the social group in order to surf virtual worlds is always a faux pas. Only use the tablet if everyone at the table is in agreement and none of those present feels ignored by it. It should not replace good communication but rather promote and support it.

Business in a restaurant

Please reserve your complete attention for the happenings around you and for the other people present at formal or business gatherings. At this time, using a tablet PC would be inappropriate, and no question is so urgent that it cannot still be answered after the meal.

The railway has actually created its own rules for business travelers. So that nobody can block the restaurant tables anymore for hours with an iPad, there is also a strict no-tablet-rule, just like the airlines!

When will Tablet PCs replace the menu?

However, the development may surpass the behavior rules that we set for ourselves for various occasions: In many European restaurants, ordering off a tablet PC may soon replace the good old menu. The trend comes from the USA where the devices are not only used in hamburger joints, but also more and more in the better restaurants. The chain Au Bon Pain wants to soon use tablet PCs in all 220 locations, and in the renowned steakhouse, Chicago Cut, you can put the entire menu together, get a recommendation for a fitting drink and browse through a specially developed virtual wine cellar with 750 detailed descriptions. This ultramodern style of ordering is already marching into Germany. The Byte-Burger in Berlin is living up to its name and even allows the guest to type in special orders on the screen that is screwed to the table. The vegan restaurant, La Mano Verde for example, uses tablets as a digital wine menu that familiarizes the guest with the vineyard and growing region. In Hamburg, the chain, Okiiri or Fugu allows its guests to order without a waiter. In Munich, the founder of La Baracca von Vapiano, Mark Korzilus, got the first spin-off in Cologne with the digital grill restaurant B.Easy.

Tipping culture

Tipping culture

What’s the best way to confuse the service staff in restaurants or diners when you’re on a business trip? That’s right: By tipping. Whether you pay the bill right to the cent, round it up a bit or show something special, it doesn’t depend only on the level of satisfaction, but also on the specific location.

Therefore, first take a look at East Asia where everything is definitely different. Because there is no classical culture of tipping there, bills or coins confuse the recipient who you actually want to thank. In Chinese restaurants it is even forbidden, but it is typical for the host to pay for everyone. Also in Malaysia, Vietnam or Thailand, tipping in smaller restaurants is seen as giving to the poor and is therefore seen as an overbearing gesture. This can be different in higher class restaurants where you should give at least ten percent of the bill.

  • In Europe there is a north-south gradient. While tipping in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries is less common, in France and Spain, tips between five and ten percent are appropriate. In Italy, Greece or Turkey, ten percent of the total bill is almost expected, but in Austria it is up to 15 percent. There, you pay your bill and leave the tip on the side plate, or on the table. But, no small coins please, because that is seen as extremely impolite!
  • Accompany your financial recognition with a few words of praise.
  • If you have a justified reason to complain, it is better to not round the amount up by a couple of cents, but rather refrain from tipping all together.

If you pay in cash, the amount, including tip can be given with a “Thank you, that’s OK”, of course. It is just as polite to name the amount that you would like to have back. If you pay with check or credit card, add the tip separately, if possible. You should only round up the amount to be paid appropriately if you do not have cash at hand, but still would like to express your appreciation.

Tipping in hotels

Tipping in hotels

Almost no other subject is as interesting to hotel guests as the question of tipping in hotels around the world. What is appropriate and when do the staff even react with annoyance if you leave a few coins, round up the bill or give them a bank note?

The differences in other countries

  • Egypt: A euro or a US dollar pleases the housekeeping staff, baggage porter and other service staff.
  • China: Especially in less known tourist areas, tipping is almost unknown. In big international hotels, three Yuan (about 40 €cents) per night is typical.
  • Germany: The amount of tip is still up to the guest’s discretion.
  • England: One pound per day is the “rate” for room service and housekeeping.
  • France: Here, tipping is part of being courteous. One to two euro per day for housekeeping and room service is normal.
  • Greece: Here, the satisfied guest gives the housekeeping staff a tip in person when leaving. Up to one euro per day is appropriate.
  • Italy: One to two euro represents satisfaction with the room service. It would be one to two euro per day for housekeeping or about five euro per week.
  • Japan: Here, there is no tradition of tipping and is even often regarded as an insult.
  • Austria: Ideally, you say thanks in person when leaving or write a thank you note and give one to three euro for each day. For room service, a maximum of two euro is normal.
  • Thailand: There, you can thank the housekeeping staff with a 20 Baht note (about 50 €cent) per day that you place on the pillow.
  • Scandinavia: Hotel service in Norway, Denmark and Finland is actually included in the invoiced amount. Very satisfied guests round up and give the housekeeping staff in neighbouring Sweden between five and ten crowns (50 €cent to one euro) per day.
  • Spain: One euro per day, or per order is gladly accepted by housekeeping or by the room service person.
  • Turkey: Here, “bakschisch” has a long tradition. If you do not give the housekeeping staff or baggage porter two to three lira (up to one euro) per day or per order, that is seen as impolite.
  • USA: It should be between two and five dollars per night. Place the tip somewhere visible or better yet, with a note on the pillow. Room service is pleased with around 15 percent of the invoice.

And this applies everywhere where you give tips

  • Also give the same amounts as above when your car is parked for you when you arrive or the hotel page calls a taxi for you.
  • The same applies for housekeeping if you request additional blankets, pillows or forgotten cosmetic articles.
  • For example, if the reception gets theatre tickets, floral presents or tickets for a special city tour, you should also show your appreciation for such additional service with a tip.
Tipping People during the Festive Season

The Eternal Question

When it comes to giving tips, many of you will notice in the coming weeks that the festive season is in full swing. Babysitters, newspaper boys, or domestic helpers all seem to be waiting to see what you will give. There is, however, no obligation to distribute money to everyone who comes your way!

At the Personal Level

Your babysitter, newspaper boy, janitor, hairdresser, mailman, domestic help, or masseur, for example, will appreciate a small gift if they have provided you with good service throughout the year.

What to Look Out For

Be sure to contact your city council before you make a cash gift to your garbage men – there are regional variations concerning how large the tip should be and whether it can be accepted. Supervisors also frown upon gifts in the form of alcohol.

Do not go overboard on tips for mailmen and parcel carriers. A good option is to give a sum equivalent to half of what a man’s haircut at a salon would cost. Your domestic help should, in contrast, be given the equivalent of one week’s wages.

Have you ever considered that giving a cash tip to the personnel at your doctor’s office could be viewed as an attempt to bribe them into making your wait shorter? Small gifts such as good-quality coffee for the communal kitchen or home-baked cookies are a better option.

Office Protocol

In recent years the business world has seen the flood of premium wines, hampers, and bakery products that used to be given dry up. Many companies now prefer to make a donation equivalent to the sum they would have spent. Instead, they send out seasonal cards that include details on the charitable cause they have supported.

It is, however, also a sad fact of life that many companies are expected to make seasonal gifts as a kind of payment for good service. Should you, for example, neglect to present a gift to your janitor, he may make you wait longer next year. In this context it is a good idea to remain true to your principles. Only make cash or material gifts if you were happy with the service you received and want to express your gratitude – not in advance.

Gifts for the Boss

Monetary gifts for the boss are taboo. Instead make a small seasonal gift as a stylish way of expressing thanks among equals.

Title in international correspondence

Hi there…

When you write your first letter, you can, of course, put your foot in your mouth regarding how to greet someone correctly or, you can gather information before writing a letter to international customers.

First of all, you should know: Most of the rules of correspondence that we learned at school many years ago, are now hopelessly obsolete.

  • Modern business titles are no longer Miss or Mrs. When addressing a lady, simply put Ms in front of her name, no matter whether the lady is single or married. It continues to be pronounced as “miss” although with more of a shorter “s” at the end.
  • Gentlemen continue to be happy with Mr.
  • Although men and women are addressed as Mr and Ms, at the same time married couples are correctly addressed with the old Mr and Mrs.
  • A letter written to two male business partners is written as Messrs Phillip Marlow and Richard Blaine.
  • When addressing professionals, put the title before the name and the professional specialty after the name, for example Dr Phillip Marlow MD (for medical doctor) or Professor Dr Inga Lund PhD (doctor of philosophy).
  • The title replaces the addition of Ms/Mr in the address by being added after the name and with the separation of a comma, e.g.: Inga Lund, PhD. Although this is different from Germany, it is, however quite normal in the Anglo Saxon region to leave out the title of doctor or professor unless the contact person specifically minds. To know if it is acceptable, you can be relatively sure by checking whether or not it is also missing from the visiting card.

And then, of course, there is the United States:

  • With formal letters, a punctuation mark follows the form of address and greeting that is not used in the rest of the world, i.e. a colon after the form of address and a comma after the greeting.

By the way, these are the correct forms of address:

  • Generally, Dear Sir or Madam, or alternatively Dear Sirs (Madam is not pluralized),
  • Ladies and Gentlemen (for executive boards or supervisory boards in the USA),
  • Dear Mr Marlow, or alternatively Dear Dr Marlow and
  • Dear Mr and Mrs Marlow for married recipients or
  • Dear Mr Marlow and Ms Croft for contact persons who are not married to each other.

And another couple of tips:

  • Please write Madam without an “e” because Madame with “e” means a prostitute.
  • You make is easier on the recipient of the letter if you show how you would like to be addressed yourself. To do this, type the specific form of address after your name in brackets in the signature block:
    – Inga Lund (Mrs) and
    – Phillip Marlow (Mr)

We especially recommend this solution if your first name does not clearly indicate your gender to international business partners (Kim, Kai, Simone, Andrea).

To be on time

TOO late?

Too bad when you see a German name on the business card. We assume that a German name even around the globe has the reputation to be on time at all times. Even if the German businessman has a meeting in South Europe or South America his ancestry will haunt him/her to be always on time. Looking at the wristwatch at all times does not seem to impress other nations. As an expert in business etiquettes we don’t have generic rules “to be late.”

North-South divide
The majority of cultural circles is agreeing to add enough playroom for the private as well as the professional time management. As an example in France, Spain, Italy and in the Southern hemisphere being late by 30 minutes is the cultural norm and is not frowned upon on the contrary it is the norm. However, it is a given that being present and attending meetings is a must in all cultures above or below the equator.

Do you speak Latin?
If you don’t know the correct agreement a little help with the Latin language will help to understand the languages between host and guest:

  • “s. t.” (In Latin: „sine tempore”) this means translated literally ‘without time. If a meeting or luncheon starts at 11:00 s.t. this means that you have to be seated at the table at that time.
  • “c. t.” (In Latin: “cum temper”) means “with time.” If the meeting starts at 11:00 c. t. then you will have a 15 minute window of time where you don’t miss anything important. You can be fashionably late by 15 minutes.

Playing with the wiggle room
How you will make a decision for the time of arrival will depend on the formulation of the invitation:

  • If it says: “We are inviting you for a dinner at 20:00 (8 p.m.) this means that you have to be there at 20:00 (8 p.m.) and ring the bell at that precise hour.
  • If the invite says: “after 18:00 (6 p.m.) our doors are open for you – the buffet will start at 19:00 (7 p.m.). This means I am expecting you by 19:00 (7 p.m.). Or if the invitation says “the party begins at 21:00 (9 p.m.) that means that your host assumes that you can be fashionably late by a few minutes. These few minutes will not kill your friendship.
  • If the text of the invite reads: “we are cordially inviting you for a reception between 10:00 and 14:00 (2 p.m.) this means that a guest can be there for the whole time or come and go as he/she pleases. However, out of courtesy it would mean that his/her attendance of at least 30minutes to one hour is expected and appreciated.

What if your guest is not on time? If you have to wait because your guest is late without letting you know you can accept the lateness with a heartfelt apology. More punctuality would be appreciated. If your guest arrives always late you might want to mention that you will set boundaries so the meeting can be held on time. Being late should not be the new norm. I don’t like to sit here alone and wait for too long. I timed my trip so I would be in time to meet with you. Please let’s be on time next time. If you wait for more than 15 minutes after this harsh reminder you should not wait anymore! Punctuality is not everybody’s business. However, a clear communication needs to happen between counterparts so that meetings, lunches or other events can be hold on time. Being on time is respect for the other person. The show begins if you are there or not. If you are early you are on time if you are on time you are late should be your motto! And what to do as the host? This certainly should not happen but it might: what if you are late as the host? Can your guest get a drink and sit at the bar and wait for you? As a generous host you will then pick up their check at the bar for the first drink. Should that happen make sure you call up the restaurant or the meeting place or text your guests so all know that you might be a few minutes late. You can ask the restaurant to have the guest at the table and start with drink.

To knock or not?

To knock or not?

Even if you like to break down the doors, you should still knock. If you barge into a large round of meetings, then politeness alone is not enough. Therefore, do assistants or employees generally have to wait outside if the door to the conference room is closed?

Anyone who condemns a meeting with 20 participants to take a forced break must be aware that 20 sets of eyes are staring at him. That makes one nervous, the intruder is likely to trip over the doorstep, flounder or turn red. It is an unpleasant feeling that no one needs and above all, you can only be spared by thinking it over: Do I really have to present this message immediately or could it wait a few minutes? Would the company really come to a standstill if my question were not to be answered immediately?

And, to make sure there are no problems

Don’t guess what behaviour your superior expects from you. Instead, clarify it in advance, and find out whether and for what reason you are to knock and interrupt the meeting. Here are a few tips if you have to interrupt a conference with many persons at some time:

  • Clarify in advance whether you are to knock or if that is not desired as an additional disruption.
  • Walk quietly without any greetings in order to not draw all the attention you yourself.
  • You don’t have to announce to the entire meeting for whom you have a message, nor exit the room with goodbyes.

The exception to the rules

More and more companies have open office doors as part of their corporate culture. They remove barriers that hamper exchanging thoughts or short questions. However, if access has been cut off at some time, for example for an important phone call, a personal meeting or whenever someone doesn’t want his concentration to be disrupted, colleagues should respect this.


Virtual friends

Virtual friends

Bad case: Quite obviously, social networks have eliminated any inhibitions that govern behavior when it comes to getting to know people in real life. But if you take the friendship request from the boss frivolously as a prompt for chumminess and make bawdy compliments to the best customer about a new profile photo on Facebook, you can find yourself on the outside very quickly.

Forms of interaction

If your supervisor goes by her first name on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and the contact request comes from Sabine instead of Ms. Dr. Thomson, you should still maintain the polite form from business life. Even if you’re friends, don’t automatically become too familiar.

If the boss requests the contact

In social media it is quite normal to show personal preferences more or less openly and to post a picture or two from your private life. But honestly: Do you want to see the boss in swimming shorts, or should he know that your new sailing boat is the reason that you sneak out of the office right at mid-day every Friday? You have these possibilities:

  • You could refuse the request politely with the reasoning that you use Facebook for a strict separation of career and private life and not for business contacts. You could instead offer to be networked via the business network LinkedIn or XING.
  • If you want to confirm the request, or you must, but you don’t want to reveal private things, change the security settings in your Facebook account. Under “Friends” you can create a special list for work contacts and establish settings for “Private” regarding what content these business friends are allowed to see.
  • What if a contact request comes from an unknown person? Then you can also refuse, of course with the cordial reasoning that you only network on Facebook with people who you also know in real life.

And, it’s the same in any network: Consider very carefully, whether and with which words you leave comments!

When you should accept requests

At the Global DiVision partner seminars, people meet other people who often have the same interests. We recommend that you put contact requests together via business networks and definitely accept them. Often, you will get further ahead in your careers by delving deeper into tasks and their solutions from the coaching, and swapping the results of applying them in practice.

Often worldwide networks result from these intelligent contacts, through which intercultural borders are much more easily bridged than under standard circumstances.

Visitors at the office

Is my office presentable for visitors?

How does your desk look like? It might be that you hover over your personal chaos like a ‘near-dead spirit.’ On the other hand, your visitors will look at it with unease: they see all the piles of documents, your personal belongings, empty coffee cups and other interesting but non-professional utensils that have accumulated over quite some time. Or is the total empty desk in a sterile workplace the better alternative for visitors to feel comfortable?

One thing is very obvious and certain: Chaos is stressing the eye and reduces the overall wellbeing. Even though you will find everything in your ‘imaginary and creative storage” – meaning your own chaos – it might have a big impact on your colleagues and visitors. You want to give that some serious consideration. We would like to share a few tips that will be helpful:

  • Sticky notes: Check regularly and what has been resolved should be eliminated.
  • If you have flowers on the window sill make sure they are well maintained or throw them out if they don’t look healthy.
  • Drink water from the glass; do not drink from the bottle.
  • Remove the salacious cartoon pictures; this does not look trustworthy.
  • Dirty dishes need to be put away.
  • Trash (and ashtrays) should be empty and cleaned on a regular basis
  • Shopping bags should be put away in a closet. If you have done shopping during your lunch hour put it away as your visitors don’t need to know what you bought.
  • Lock away the open files on your desk. Visitors might think that you don’t take confidentiality and discretion seriously in your line of business.
  • Put folders in a filing cabinet, sensitive data should be locked up, go through all stacks of paper. What has been taken care of by itself? Discard immediately.

Neat, but not too perfect
Cleaning up does not mean that you want to transform your work place into a super sterile environment where every single item is perfectly aligned and in a perfect square. If you add your child’s drawing, your family photo, a beautiful picture, a well-maintained plant and some work on the desk it will indicate to your visitor that she/he is dealing with a human being. Do not overdo with too much of a personal touch. This might backfire as you come across as unprofessional and overwhelmed.


Waiter: Why does a waiter keep the hand behind his back, when pouring wine?

Why does a waiter keep the hand behind his back, when pouring wine?

Like many traditions, this gesture has also a currently rather bizarre sounding reason. In ancient Egypt, the servants kept their left (impure) hand behind their back. This ensured that they could not harm their masters, neither poison nor stab them. In ancient Rome they tied the left hand of the slaves on their back for the same reason.

The fear of being poisoned was kept alive up to the age of chivalry: The reason for clicking glasses with the seatmate was also that some splashes of one’s own drink would be spilled into the glass of the seatmate. If he had secretly poured poison in the opponent’s glass, he would not touch his own drink after the toast.

The chances of getting poisoned today at a restaurant, tends to be close to zero. The hand behind the back does not just seem outdated – it is to. Toasting is still today a sign of mutual sympathy. The thing with the spillover should rather be avoided.