Value Added Tax
➤ Germany's VAT is 19 percent. Food brought into the country is charged at a lower 7-percent rate.
➤ VAT is reimbursable, but there is considerable paperwork, and it could take months to obtain a refund. The refund application must be received by the Federal Central Tax Office within six months of the end of the calendar year in which the tax was incurred.
➤ Exhibition halls throughout Germany use 220 V.
➤ Germans use round, two-prong electrical plugs, so you will need to bring adaptors and transformers for any electrical equipment you plan to use or display in your booth.
➤ Order booth cleaning through show services prior to the show.
➤ You will need to order disposal for build-and-burn exhibits. Germany has special Green fees depending on the type of trash to be disposed of by the contractor. Ask your exhibit builder for more information.
➤ Cell phones (called "mobile phones" locally) with 3G, triband, and quadband technology will work throughout the country.
➤ Cell-phone rentals are available in Germany.
➤ Smoking is forbidden in German exhibit halls, but there are designated smoking areas outside each exhibit hall.
➤ Contact the German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights (GEMA) in order to pay royalties and obtain the proper licenses for any music you plan to play in your exhibit during the trade show.
➤ Check with show management regarding any show-specific restrictions or regulations regarding music in the exhibit hall.
Greetings and Culture
➤ Shake hands firmly and say, "Hello" in English or either "Guten tag" (Good day) or "Guten abend" (Good evening), depending, of course, on the time of day.
➤ It is customary for Germans to shake hands before and after all meetings.
➤ In a group, take your time with introductions, shaking each person's hand. Everyone in the group will be introduced to one another regardless of rank.
➤ Germans tend to be more formal than their U.S. counterparts, so be careful of becoming informal too quickly.
➤ Even smaller booths will generally have cookies and soft drinks in Germany. Larger booths will offer hors d'oeuvres, more elaborate sweets, or even sausages.
➤ In larger booths, service of beer, wine, and even liquor is common and acceptable. Check with show management to see if permission is needed to serve alcohol in your exhibit during the show.
➤ Be aware that there are different drinking ages in Germany: 16 for beer and wine, 18 for liquor.
➤ While German is the main language spoken at shows, most professionals also speak English. Having said that, it is considered a sign of respect to have a translator in your booth.
➤ Booth literature should be translated to German, but English signage and logos are generally acceptable at trade shows.
➤ For men, suits are the norm no matter your status. If male staffers are not wearing a suit, then a tie is a must.
➤ For women, conservative business attire is acceptable. Avoid flashy outfits and jewelry.
➤ Tattoos and piercings should be covered.
Installation and Dismantle
➤ While there are no labor unions in Germany, most exhibit houses bring their own workers and electricians.
➤ Since there is no pool of craftsmen available for on-site hire, you must ask your exhibit house to bring an I&D crew and electricians, if needed. Otherwise, you will be expected to assemble your booth yourself.
➤ Drayage costs are included in a booth builder's charges, but will be billed directly to U.S. companies building their own booths.
General Facts and Tips
➤ The main exhibit hall in Düsseldorf is the Messe Düsseldorf, which is easily accessible as the public transportation system - trams and buses - runs directly to it.
➤ Exhibit halls are generally open from 9 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
➤ Educational conferences in conjunction with trade show exhibitions are less common in Germany than they are in the United States.
➤ Book hotels early - a year in advance is not uncommon - as they sell out quickly.
➤ Nowhere in the world is punctuality more important than in Germany. Be on time for every appointment. Arriving just two or three minutes late can be extremely insulting to a German executive, especially if you are in a subordinate position.
➤ Avoid putting your hands in your pockets during a conversation - it is considered rude.
➤ Breakfast meetings are rare at German trade shows; business lunches are more popular.
➤ For EuroShop and many other big shows, your badge to the exhibit hall often doubles as a free pass for public transportation to the show. This includes U-Bahn (underground rapid transit), trams, buses, and some trains.
➤ Plans for custom exhibits should be sent to the venue or show sponsor in advance. (See your show guide for instructions.)
➤ Check fire regulations carefully, as some materials (e.g. acrylics, foam-rubber padding, etc.) cannot be used in booth construction.
➤ Materials for banners and graphics used within the booth must be fire-resistant, and may be tested on site by fire marshals. Flat electrical cords are not allowed in exhibits.
Karen Arndt, managing director, Uniplan Shanghai Co. Ltd., Shanghai, China; Justin August, project manager, Sakura International Inc., Tokyo, Japan; Michael B. Boone, director of international business, Coastal International Inc., Antioch, TN; Robert C. Campbell, vice president, Uniplan GmbH & Co. KG, Basel, Switzerland; Christopher Dorn, president, Idea International Inc., Tokyo, Japan; Isaac Chan, general manager, Uniplan Shanghai Co. Ltd., Shanghai, China; Ben Einer, vice president of international, EWI Worldwide Inc., Shanghai, China; Jeffrey S. Hannah, president, Nuance International Inc., Lawrenceville, GA; Isabel Lorenzo, business director, Octaplan Arquitetura E Promogoes Ltda., Rio De Janeiro, Brazil; Kerstin Mulfinger, architect, Burkhardt Leitner Constructiv Inc., Toronto, Canada; Gino Pellegrini, president, Inter-Global Exhibitions, Denver, CO; Nicolas Piontkowitz, marketing and public relations, Bachmann Kern & Partner Architektur Design, Solingen, Germany; Holly Seese, global marketing communications manager, Celanese Corp., Dallas, TX; Jeannine K. Swan, owner and president, Global Exhibit Management, Fort Worth, TX; Danielle Xu, managing director of Asia Pacific, EWI Worldwide Inc., Shanghai, China