This handy guide includes information on business culture, hierarchy, negotiations and etiquette in Luxembourg.
Hierarchy in Luxembourg
In traditional Luxembourgian business culture, hierarchies are distinct, strict and comparatively steep. They reflect the influence the Christian religion – Roman Catholicism to be more precise – has had on social values and protocol. Staff with a high level of seniority receive great levels of respect.
Despite the conventionally centred structures within companies and organisations, however, a management approach of increased participation of staff and subordinates has become more popular throughout recent decades.
Luxembourgers are rational and pragmatic. With charm and courtesy being every day means of communication assertiveness and strong criticism are not appreciated.
Developing a business strategy involves both long-term and short-term developments. As Luxembourgers carefully calculate potential risks, decisionmaking is comparatively slow.
Meetings in Luxembourg
In Luxembourg, meetings tend to be brief. Typically, only a minimum of small talk preludes business. Attendees follow protocol and rules of conduct closely. In most cases, major decisions take place prior to a meeting; often, meetings merely formalize a decision and provide instructions.
Negotiations in Luxembourg
When entering negotiations with a Luxembourgish business partner, be careful not to rush things and stick to a formal code. Avoid high-pressure tactics, as they might work against you.
Luxembourgers have a prudent and rational approach to business; they don’t welcome emotional outbursts. Similarly, boasting about prior accomplishments or making exaggerated claims will not earn you credit. Make sure you prepare well when presenting your idea, offer, or business model. Maintain eye contact while speaking.
Decisions are preferably based on consensus, which might lead to a lengthy negotiation process; each side should benefit from a certain decision.
Decisionmaking occurs in private at the top of the organisation. Hence, when entering negotiations, it is worthwhile making sure beforehand, that the person who will represent a certain party is actually entitled to decide.
Time perception in Luxembourg
In Luxembourg schedules as well as deadlines matter; unless unavoidable, they adhere to them strictly. Punctuality, too, is taken rather seriously, particularly in a business context, but also with regard to social events. If – for whatever reason – one happens to be running late, it is advisable to try and call the waiting party, in order to prepare them for the delay.
Office hours are from 8.30am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday.
You won’t necessarily be needing a third-party introduction in order to get in touch with someone, however it can be helpful to use one’s pre-existing contacts in such a way. Try and schedule business appointments about two weeks in advance. Avoid planning appointments during the months of July and August as well as around Christmas and Easter, as a lot of people will use this period of the year to go on vacation.
Meetings and greetings in Luxembourg
Polite aloofness is characteristic of many Luxembourgers, especially when addressing foreigners. The intention is to respect someone’s privacy and to keep business life and private life separated.
When greeting a colleague or business partner, a firm handshake is appropriate. Three light kisses on the cheeks are exchanged between good friends, but not between males.
In a business context, stick to formal behaviour and keep using last names and the formal address until invited to do otherwise.
Dress code in Luxembourg
The typical business dress code is formal, not extremely stylish, but rather on the conservative side. A restrained colour palette and an awareness for brands and high quality are common among Luxembourgers, most of whom are striving for a classic and sophisticated look. Men wear a suit and tie; women dress in a suit, dress, or blouse and skirt.
Wining and dining
Note that Luxembourgers take pride in their national culture, hence do not associate them with the French, or with their Belgian or their German neighbours. Doing business in Luxembourg requires taking an interest in local customs and etiquette.
When invited to someone’s home for dinner, don’t forget to bring a small gift, flowers, chocolates or a good bottle of wine.
Business cards are common; businesspeople exchange them during the first encounter. A typical card mentions job title and academic tile. When doing business with Luxembourgers, it is advisable to have cards printed in both French and German.