Doing business abroad always requires knowledge of the country, its people and their culture. In this article we focus on the geographic decentralisation of German industry and on football.
Germany’s main partners in the European Union France and Great Britain are politically and economically highly centralized. Paris and London are the centre of political and business life in their respective states. Germany in contrast is highly diversified. The reason has its roots in German history and especially the division into two states after World War II.
Germany is a federal state with 16 different states. The largest states are North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria with together over 35% of Germany’s population. The smallest are the capital Berlin and the old Hanseatic city-states of Hamburg and Bremen. The influence of the states on domestic politics is relatively strong. Consequently the federal parliament consists of two chambers. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections. The members of the Bundesrat represent the governments of the 16 federal states.
German industry is not centralised at all. Chemical industries are based predominantly in the west of Germany (Ludwigshafen/Leverkusen). Car industry is situated mainly in the south (Stuttgart/Munich) and in the northern town of Wolfsburg (Volkswagen). The biggest harbours are situated in the north of the country. Hamburg is the second biggest sea port in Europe and a big logistic hub. The centre of the fashion industry is Düsseldorf. The financial centre with headquarters of most German banks and of the European Central Bank is Frankfurt. Media and IT industries concentrate in Berlin and Hamburg. Foreign managers and business people should investigate the optimal location for their business plans before coming to Germany.
What does football (for Americans: soccer) have to do with business? Nothing, but it helps if you know whether your future business partner is a football supporter and which team he follows. Football is the biggest sport in Germany. The majority of male population in Germany follow the game. And the number of female supporters is growing.
The most successful club comes from Munich (Bayern). Main contenders in recent years were Werder (Bremen), HSV (Hamburg), Borussia (Dortmund), Schalke (Gelsenkirchen), Bayer (Leverkusen) and VfB (Stuttgart). And the Germans have a lot of pride in their national team.
It is always helpful if you ask the secretary of German partners you intend to meet whether his or her boss likes football and which team he follows. This knowledge might ease communication at an initial meeting. And if your German partner invites you to a game of his local football team you should not refuse this invitation even if the temperature is below zero. He will be honoured by your presence.
Author: Peter Scheller, Somann & Scheller, www.somannscheller.de